Florida vs. Tennessee: Stars Who Must Shine for Gators to Pick Up Key SEC Win

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistSeptember 14, 2012

COLLEGE STATION, TX - SEPTEMBER 08:  Mike Gillislee #23 of the Florida Gators runs for a touchdown against the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field on September 8, 2012 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Florida faces its toughest challenge of the young season when it travels to face fellow undefeated SEC power Tennessee. The Gators have picked up narrow victories in each of their first two games, but will need to play a lot better to win on Saturday.

The team that emerges victorious will receive a boost a both in confidence and the polls. In order for that to be the Gators, they will need a couple of key players to step up. Let's take a look at three of them and examine what type of impact they must have on the game.


Frankie Hammond

Even though Hammond has only made five catches through two games, his big-play potential makes the senior wide receiver a player the opposing defense must respect. He caught a 50-yard touchdown that allowed Florida to finally pull away from Bowling Green in the opener.

In order for the Gators' running game to remain effective throughout the SEC schedule, the threat of the deep ball must be present. Hammond gives Florida the player it needs to stretch the field, to prevent defenses from overloading the box.

Tennessee's secondary has been prone to long passes in the first few games, giving up several plays over 20 yards. Hammond needs to exploit that weakness in Week 3.


Mike Gillislee

A bothersome groin isn't enough to slow down Gillislee. He's listed as probable for Saturday's game by USA Today, and that's huge for the Gators because the offense wouldn't be nearly as dangerous if he wasn't able to suit up.

The dynamic senior has gained 231 yards on 38 carries and scored four touchdowns. The rest of the offense has a total of one touchdown combined. So even though he doesn't get as much attention as some other SEC stars, he's vital to the Gators.

He faces a tough test, though. The Volunteers defense has held opposing rushers below four yards per carry in each of the first few weeks. Gillislee must bring that streak to an end for the Gators offense to succeed.


Jon Bostic

Bostic was expected to serve as the heart and soul of the Florida defense and he hasn't disappointed. The linebacker has 13 tackles—including three for a loss—and a sack in the first two games. He gets the job done, plain and simple.

The biggest key for him and the rest of the Gators defenders on Saturday will be making life difficult on Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray. He's shown what he's capable of when allowed to stand in a clean pocket with six touchdowns in two games.

Florida has only forced two turnovers, but a well-timed one on Saturday could change the entire game. If there's one player on the Florida defense that can make it happen, it's Bostic.