Tennessee Vols: Eight Reasons To Believe They Will Beat the Florida Gators
Regardless of what you've been told or may have come to believe, this is most certainly one of the SEC's top rivalries.
It is a rivalry the Gators have owned for a couple of decades, but it is a rivalry nonetheless.
The Vols won this game only three times from 1990-1999, and three times from 2000-2009. That's six times in 20 years.
However, the winner of this game has gone on to represent the SEC East in the conference championship game 12 times since the game's inception in 1992.
The great Peyton Manning never beat the Gators. Tennessee has defeated Florida in back-to-back seasons just twice in 40 years ('70-71 and '03-04).
Of course, the teams have only played every season since 1990, but defeating a team eight times in 26 tries, dating back to 1970, is nothing to be proud of.
Florida is only 19-18 all-time against the Vols. At least Tennessee will always have the 40's, 50's, and 60's. Come to think of it, no wonder many no longer view this as a rivalry.
Urban Meyer has not lost to Tennessee in five tries ('05-09).
This is Derek Dooley's first "Florida Week."
Can this ragtag group of Vols, with little depth and nowhere near as much talent as the Gators, actually get this next decade started out on the right foot for Tennessee?
Will Derek Dooley start his own little streak to begin the 2010s?
Here are eight reasons the Vols just might pull off a shocker against the Top-10 Gators in Knoxville on Saturday.
Florida Hasn't Exactly Looked Like The Mighty Gators So Far in 2010
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Whether it was "snap-gate" against Miami of Ohio in week one or a sluggish start against South Florida that led to a 7-7 halftime tie, these Gators are clearly not the same team that went 12-0 in the regular season last year.
Without the Gators forcing turnovers to create a short field for the offense and two defensive touchdowns, the two wins against inferior opponents would have been much closer.
But of course, that also says a lot about this defense. The Gators are very quick on that side of the ball and, as always, playmakers abound.
But there's no denying that this is not your father's Florida team. At least it didn't show it against Miami (Ohio) and South Florida.
Distractions, Distractions, Distractions
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As ridiculous and sad as Chris Rainey's actions were on Monday evening, I cringe at trivializing something so seriously deplorable by making it into a positive for another team. But to leave that out of the story would be irresponsible of the writer.
The loss of a tremendous talent like Rainey will not go unnoticed, but if you think for one minute that the Gators can't just plug someone else into his spot and barely miss a beat, you'd be mistaken.
However, the sheer distraction surrounding Rainey's impending dismissal and the circumstances surrounding his crime could be enough to effect the team's psyche heading into Saturday.
You want precedent? Ole Miss pounded the Vols just days after three players were arrested for holding some guys up with a pellet gun.
Rainey allegedly threatened to kill someone. Granted, he's only one player potentially dismissed from the team, but he's an integral part to this team. Losing Rainey in this manner would definitely hurt.
Florida Is Not Oregon
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Maybe the Gators could have gotten away with a similar offense when Tebow was running the show, but Florida will not and probably cannot run the fast-paced offense that Oregon overwhelmed the Vols with last Saturday.
In that aspect, Florida will not be as hard to keep up with as Oregon.
Where Florida does have the advantage, however, is the sheer numbers of guys that it will throw at the Vols. Florida is faster, deeper, and stronger than Tennessee.
When compared to the Ducks, however, Florida does not present nearly the threat that caused Tennessee to suffer its worst loss in Knoxville last weekend.
It's QB John Brantley's First-Ever Road Start
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We knew there would be some growing pains going from Tebow the Terrific to John Brantley. The obvious differences between the two are just too many to mention in this limited space.
However, Brantley was considered a potential Heisman candidate in the preseason. Through two games, he has only 285 yards passing and four touchdowns.
Those meager stats were put up in the friendly confines of the Swamp, against weak opponents, with 90,000 friends cheering for him.
Saturday, there will be 100,000 strong cheering, chanting, and saying things that would make a sailor blush.
If Tennessee's defense comes out strong, like it did against Oregon, Brantley could get flustered and make a mistake or two.
Tennessee’s Defense Will Be the Best the Gators Have Faced in 2010
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Speaking of that Vol defense, before Oregon played bombs away in the second half, Tennessee defenders sacked Oregon's quarterback once and had four tackles for loss.
The Vols hurried one of Pac 10's fastest quarterbacks six times and broke up four pass plays.
Oregon did eventually run away with the game, but only after a crazy run by Heisman candidate La'Michael James, and a back-breaking interception return for a touchdown. The rest was just window dressing after the Vols lost the will to fight.
Tennessee's talented, fast defense could give this Florida offense, which still hasn't found itself, fits at the outset. And it could be the determining factor in a monumental upset.
Tennessee’s Senior Leadership Wont Allow a Repeat Of Oregon
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Senior linebacker Nick Reveiz seemed a tad embarrassed after the Oregon blowout on Saturday.
Reveiz told reporters after the game, "We kind of freaked out and that's on the seniors, and I feel like our senior class didn't answer the bell tonight."
The Vols have three players who are some of the classiest players that Tennessee has had in some time: defensive end Chris Walker, tight end Luke Stocker, and the aforementioned Reveiz.
As those three go, so goes the young, inexperienced kids who are looking up to them for leadership on and off the field.
Reveiz plays hard every down. Stocker is just waiting to break out. And Walker anchors a line that has shown it can be dominant at times.
Don't think for a minute that the trio will not be giving their all to get their first career win over the Gators.
Tennessee Running Back Tauren Poole
Tauren Poole is quite possibly one of the more talented running backs that the Vols have had in quite some time.
If you know anything of the history of Tennessee running backs, you will realize how potentially unbelievable that statement could be.
Poole had over 100 yards rushing at halftime against the Ducks Saturday. He was well on his way to 200 yards until the Vols coaching staff felt the need to put the ball in the air a little more.
Poole finished with 164 yards on 23 carries and had one touchdown. Poole had runs of 39, 31, 23, 17 and 14 yards against the Ducks.
The Vols young, inexperienced offensive line that we've heard so much about did their job blocking for him, but the elusive, ridiculously-hard-to-tackle running back is tough on opposing defenses. He is a playmaker in every sense of the word.
By the way, of the 20 times these two teams have played since 1990, the team that has had the most rushing yards has won the game 18 times.
Coming into this game, Tennessee has rushed for 514 yards. Florida has only 350 through two games.
Tennessee Is Due For a Win in Knoxville
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Florida does win this game consistently and many times it has completely blown out the Vols.
Throughout all the recent winning streaks that the Florida has held against the Vols ('93-97, '99-00, '05-09), the fact remains that the Gators have never beaten the Vols three straight times at Neyland Stadium. Never.
The catch is, that each of the last two times the Vols have continued that trend, the game has come down to a field goal.
Who can forget the overtime thriller that Tennessee won 20-17 when Florida kicker Collins Cooper missed the game-tying field goal to end it.
How about James Wilhoit missing the game-tying extra point in '04, only to come back and stick a 52-yard game-winning field goal right through the uprights for the win, 30-28.
Of course, neither of those games featured an un-ranked Tennessee facing a top-ten Gators team, but the trend is still there and it could very well hold true this Saturday.
Tennessee fans celebrate the 1998 win over Florida
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Tennessee has no depth. Florida has amassed a wealth of talent and it could literally throw potential stars out there two and three deep at most positions.
Urban Meyer does not lose to Tennessee. Steve Spurrier rarely did.
Florida owns Tennessee and the Gators know it. You don't win 14 of 20 against your rival and not have, at least, some confidence.
Florida players admitted that they have the Power T in their urinals in Gainesville. They have little to no respect for anything the Vols have done.
The game boils down to a once proud, now rebuilding program vs. a college football giant who is reloading and restocking talent. On that alone, one should pick the Gators to win by at least 10.
But there's just something about this game, this week, that feels different. It shouldn't feel different after the Vols played dead and lost to a top five team 48-13 last week. But it does feel different.
Tennessee's defense will force turnovers from a shell-shocked John Brantley early.
From there, the Gators will settle in and take a small lead. A rested Vols defense will come out firing on all six cylinders in the second half, where a battle of field goals will take place.
Tennessee wins the game and shocks the SEC and the nation, 23-17.