The Tennessee Volunteers have their best chance in what seems like forever to beat the Florida Gators Saturday night. In what will be the Gators’ first true SEC test, they must contain an emerging Volunteers offense if they hope to continue climbing the rankings.
Neither team has truly faced a competitive opponent to this point, but Florida has already been pushed to its limits against Bowling Green and Texas A&M. They had to stage comebacks in both of those games in order to hold onto their early undefeated record.
There isn’t very much of a sample size to go off, though, so let’s take a look my real reasoning behind the Vols having the edge in this one.
Gators lacking identity and consistency on offense
The Florida Gators have not been able to get into a groove on offense so far in 2012. Three years removed from Tim Tebow at quarterback and Urban Meyer’s offensive system, the Gators still have not been able to develop a new offensive identity.
Sure, there is still speed on the offensive side of the ball for the Gators. But do they have the ability to get the ball to those players in space? There isn’t much of a threat from the Gators in the downfield passing game as there has been in years past.
Thus far, that’s allowed opposing defenses to focus on their speedsters and contain them, for the most part. The running game has been inconsistent, but has come on strong after wearing teams down in the first half of games.
Can the Gators offense get started early against the Volunteers with an effective pass and rush attack?
If not, they might find themselves in a hole they cannot climb out of this time in Knoxville.
Vols have a lot more on the line
For a team who hasn’t been ranked in the BCS Top 25 standings since 2008, the Volunteers’ new-look offense is playing a huge part in their reversal of fortunes this year.
At home, against their rival, the Vols are playing to break a seven-game losing streak against the Gators. That’s good enough for the longest losing streak in their history against their SEC rival.
A loss to the Gators wouldn’t surprise anyone. The pressure is on the Gators to walk into Neyland Stadium and shut down an explosive Volunteers offense.
Big play ability favors the Vols
Three Gators’ defenders will miss this week due to injury. Cornerback Cody Riggs, linebacker Jelani Jenkins and linebacker Ronald Powell will all be unavailable for this Week 3 matchup.
The fact of the matter is the Gators’ defense isn’t the best it’s been in recent years. With injuries and depth concerns, it leaves them susceptible to the big play potential of the explosive Vols offense.
Then there is the somewhat ordinary Gators offense on the other side of the ball. They truly lack the ability to keep up with the Vols if the game turns into a shootout.
Mike Hoag is a Trends and Traffic writer for Bleacher Report and also covers the Cleveland Browns and the NFL for the site.