No. 1 Florida Gators (2-0) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (1-1)
What Happened Last Week
Florida looked every bit like the No. 1 team in the nation—after the first quarter, in a 56-6 win over Troy. The opening period wasn’t kind to the Gators, as a driving rainstorm combined with sloppy ball handling left the Gator Nation feeling a little uneasy.
The Gators would go on to score on their next four possessions, effectively putting the game out of reach.
Tennessee took all of the good feelings and optimism from their week one blowout win over Western Kentucky and completely flushed it down the toilet against UCLA. The Vols took their third consecutive loss to a Pac-10 team, despite holding the Bruins to only 186 yards of total offense and a dismal 3-of-14 on third down.
The Tennessee offense failed to capitalize late in the game, and the Bruins came away with an upset in Neyland Stadium.
Florida Will Win If…
They Win the Three and Out Battle
Three plays and get the defense off the field. That’s a pretty simple philosophy that the Gators need to mandate for Saturday. Tennessee’s offense held the ball for 14 of the last 18 minutes against UCLA and had two drives totaling 30 plays.
If Florida’s offense is parked on the sidelines that long, it will allow the Vols to control the tempo of the game and hang around longer than most people expect. Tennessee can parlay this and a solid defense into keeping the game tight heading into the fourth quarter.
Getting the Vols to go three and out gives the Gators two positives: The high-scoring Gator offense comes back on the field, and Brandon James is back to return punts.
They Take Care of the Football
There were six fumbles by Florida last Saturday, with three of them being lost. Good teams can get away with that against the Troys of the world. Florida will not win if they have three turnovers against Tennessee.
Eric Berry, the best defender in the country, is a ballhawk who can take turnovers back to the house from anywhere on field. Rico McCoy is an All-SEC caliber linebacker who can cause havoc at any time. Linebacker Nick Reveiz is an underrated talent who is playing well in his first year as a starter.
They Just Play Football
It is beyond time for everyone on both teams in this rivalry to just shut up and play some football. Lane Kiffin started at his press conference with "singing Rocky Top all night when we beat Florida." Then, he (incorrectly) said that "he loved the fact that Urban had to cheat, and still didn’t get him," (referring to recruit Nu’Keese Richardson).
Florida lineman Matt Patchan has called Kiffin a "bozo," and quarterback Tim Tebow has said that he "doesn’t like anyone talking about Coach Meyer."
Everybody needs to shut up, immediately. Play the game on the field Saturday between the white lines, within the rules, and settle everything then. If you need an example of how to settle things on the field, just watch the tackle Brandon Spikes made early in the Georgia game on Knowshon Moreno.
The talent levels at every position favor the Gators (except for Eric Berry), and when the Gators play up to their talent level—they win, and win big.
Florida Will Lose If…
Eric Berry Dictates the Pace of Florida’s Offense
The best defensive player in college football, coached by one of the best defensive minds at any level (Monte Kiffin), is lining up against arguably the best offense in the game, and do you think he’s going to just sit back and play cover two the whole game?
Um, I don’t think so.
Eric Berry will have to blitz, play man to man, play cover two, play cover three, line up in the box, and then make enough big plays on top of it to disrupt and confuse the Florida offense enough to make the Gators second guess themselves.
The Tennessee defense feeds off of Berry’s play, and they will need to do so if they want to beat the Gators.
There is no doubt that the Gators will game plan for him and where he lines up, but Florida’s offensive coordinator Steve Addazio cannot allow his play calling during the game to be dictated by one person.
Tennessee Doesn’t Kick the Ball to Brandon James
Everyone in Tennessee should know who Brandon James is by now. If they don’t know him by name, then they should know him by the number 25 he wears on his jersey. And, if that still doesn’t work, Brandon James is the guy who has torched Tennessee’s special teams for 410 return yards and two touchdowns in the last three games.
Now think about the touchdown in 2006 that was taken away on a borderline penalty, and the one also in 2006 where the kicker tripped him in the open field, and it is enough to give any special teams coach an ulcer.
Keeping the ball away from James should be at the top of the list in the Vols’ game plan for Saturday, as it will force the Gators into either bad field position or doing something different in the return game.
The X-Factors Will Be…
Lane Kiffin and Nu’Keese Richardson
Is this really a shock? I think every Gator fan who hasn’t been living under a rock has been waiting for this game and these two people to come to town since signing day in February.
Personally, I could not care less what Lane Kiffin has to say about anything, but some Gator fans took it as a slap in the face. I could also not care less where Nu’Keese Richardson decided to go to school. That was his choice, and it is unfortunate for him that he was the one dragged into it.
Florida has won the last four games in a row, and more than likely it will be five in a row on Saturday. Eric Berry can’t overcome the deficiencies at quarterback and receiver for Tennessee; and the Gators win with a score closer than most people think.
Florida 38–Tennessee 13
For a Tennessee fan’s perspective, you can read what Tennessee Volunteers Community Leader Michael Shibley wrote here.