Gatorade Aside, Vegas Is Drinking Florida's Kool-Aid, Not Tennessee's

tre wellsCorrespondent IAugust 9, 2009

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 15:  Gator fans cheer as the Tennessee Volunteers take on the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 15, 2007 in Gainesville, Florida. Florida defeated Tennessee 59-20.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

According to Phil Steele of Steele’s College Football Magazine, Las Vegas has the Florida Gators as a 26 point favorite over the Tennessee Volunteers for their Sept 19 matchup in Gainesville.

As much as I have tried I just can’t create a scenario where Tennessee pulls the upset.

To say Florida is loaded is an understatement. The defense returns all starters from last year, and is at least two deep at every position.

The offensive line resembles a professional line in size, strength, and experience. There are more weapons at the skill position than have been confiscated from the players in recent arrests, and they have a decent kid playing quarterback that might have the starting position locked down if he can continue to play well.

Did I mention their coach is an offensive genius who likes to hold grudges and run up the score? Just ask Mark Richt.

Tennessee on the other hand has a new head coach, depth issues at linebacker, and defensive tackle, a head case for a quarterback, and a recruiting coordinator that can’t keep his shirt on.

Looks like a blowout in every sense of the word. Wouldn’t it be nice if Gainesville was more like Las Vegas?

For all the points Tennessee has given up in Florida over the years, you think they would get a voucher for 10 or 20 free points just to come back. Hey that’s just good business.

Twenty-six points may be a realistic spread, but my guess is it isn’t even close.

There are two theories to consider here. Florida has so much going for it that it will blindside the younger Vols before they even know what hit them. Momentum, and the Swamp could become a snowball effect that would allow any confidence the Vols had to seep out of them quicker than a flat tire.

Tennessee gets behind early. Crompton starts to press and make mistakes. Suddenly it’s 31-3 with 1:36 left to go in the half.

But this isn’t your older brothers Volunteers.

Gone are the days of the fragile psyche, that was massaged by Phillip Fulmer in the early years of his tenure, but appeared to fade away as the great pumpkin got older and seemed to be complacent with his place in Tennessee and S.E.C. history.

Lane Kiffin will have a confident team march into Gainesville if it kills him, and it just may. High speed practices and intense drills, have most conservatives scratching their heads and questioning his decisions, but it also has players flying around, becoming hungrier and believing in themselves.

Toughness isn’t something you are born with. It is beaten into you. This team will definitely be tougher than the team you saw take the field last year.

Vol fans won’t be subjected to Arian Foster running into the line and falling down anymore. There will be two or three players waiting to get their chance behind him, and under Kiffin they will. Regardless of age, performance on the field seems to be the only prerequisite of playing time for the young coach.

The offensive line that, last year, needed a “no vacancy” sign hanging up above them due to the lack of room they made for their backs are now allowed to explode off the line in their natural position on every down instead of flipping back and forth as they were forced to do last year under offensive coordinator Dave Clawson.

The Vols will run the ball better under Kiffin than they did the last few years of the Fulmer era. What’s more important though, is that the commitment to the run will return. Even when U.T. faired well running the ball last year (6.1 yards per carry in the first half vs. U.C.L.A) they never stuck with it.

With all that being said, do I believe U.T. will steal a win in Gainesville? I do just about as much as I think Urban Meyer will let that little slipup by Kiffin earlier in the year slide. It’s bad enough Tennessee gets Florida at The Swamp this year, but now they will definitely get Florida’s best shot as well.

What I also believe is that 26 point spread may be a little high. With all that Florida has going for it, and it is a lot, Tennessee is not going down there with Division II (FCS) talent. The Vols will be ready to play, they will be tired of hearing about Tim Tebow, and they will be eager to wipe the slime off of last season.

Look for Tennessee to give Florida it’s best shot too, and hopefully a game.

Prediction: Florida 34 Tennessee 21


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