Tennessee-Florida Preview: There Will Be Blood in the Swamp

Michael ShibleySenior Analyst ISeptember 15, 2009

KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 12: Lane Kiffin, head coach of  the Tennessee Volunteers talks with Jonathan Crompton #8 of the Tennessee Volunteers during a timeout against the UCLA Bruins on September 12, 2009 at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Bruins beat the Volunteers 19-15. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

Tennessee vs. Florida.  

We all know what it has meant in the past, and what it means now.  Two football powers ready to go at it in the first big game of the season for both teams.  This year, of course, there is more intrigue because of Lane Kiffin's remarks in the offseason.  

Couple that with Tennessee's disastrous loss to UCLA at home last week, and the Gators are just licking their chops, waiting to bite the head off of Smokey.

What does Tennessee have to do to come out of the swamp maybe not with a win, but alive with their dignity intact?  Let's take a look.

No Turnovers

General Neyland's first game maxim is so important: "The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win." All the turnovers Tennessee had against the Bruins cost Tennessee the game.  

Tennessee fans know what the Gators do when they get a momentum-shifting turnover, they go right for the throat on the next play and it's touchdown, Florida.  They're going to have to play mistake-free football to have any chance.

Defense will need to play perfect

We all know the Vols' defense played their hearts out to keep Tennessee in the game last week, making sure UCLA only kicked field goals.  However, Eric Berry and the Tennessee defense are not lining up against a redshirt freshman quarterback this week, it's Tim Tebow.  

Tennessee will have to play smart and not get overwhelmed when the Gators are driving.

The Gators will be out for blood

Sometimes teams get too caught up in the hype surrounding the game, that they come out and are actually too pumped up.  The Gators will be hearing all week about Kiffin's comments and asked about it ad nauseam.

Florida might be too caught up in putting a hurt on Tennessee that they are not thinking about the game, and may make some mistakes by being too aggressive.  If this happens, Tennessee will have to take advantage and score.

Tennessee has nothing to lose, so play like it

The most dangerous opponent is one that is wounded and has nothing to lose—Tennessee is in that position.  

Florida is a four-touchdown favorite.  Everybody thinks Florida will just smother the Vols offense and win the game by 50 or more.  Last time the Vols were that big of an underdog in the Swamp it was 2001; Tennessee was an 18-point underdog and that really got under their skin, but the Big Orange drained the Swamp that day, winning 34-32.

Tennessee cannot be timid.  People who walk into a swamp nervous and timid get eaten. The person who survives is the one who has no fear and has their wits about them.

What really bothered many Tennessee fans about the loss to UCLA was that we really needed to win that game.  The Vols were obviously going to maul Western Kentucky, and were in turn obviously going to get mauled down in Florida.  So, beating UCLA was a big deal for the Big Orange.  

Well, that did not happen, and now many in Big Orange Country are worried this will be a repeat of last year.  

If I was Lane Kiffin and the Volunteers, I would not be worried about what everyone else thinks.  Walk into the Swamp and battle for 60 minutes.  You might not win, but if you are going to go down, go down fighting.

You won't lose respect for that.


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