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Tennessee Football Opponent Preview: Florida Gators

It’s rivalry week.

NCAA Football: Florida at Michigan Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee and Florida will renew the schools’ rivalry this week.

Tennessee fans remember well the Vols’ comeback from down 21-0 last year to beat the Gators for the first time since 2004. After more than a decade spent losing to Florida, this once-great SEC rivalry appears to be back on track with great matchups like it featured in the 1990s.


The scouting report on Florida is boiled down pretty simply by most fans - great defense, horrible offense. It may be slightly more complex than that, but that’s the gist.

Florida has not scored an offensive touchdown since the Obama administration. The Gators’ defense, conversely, is one of the better units in the country. 14 of Florida’s 17 points in its season opener against Michigan came on two interceptions returned for touchdowns.

It is worth noting the Gators were without offensive playmakers Antonio Callaway and Jordan Scarlett due to suspensions. The two players were also absent from Florida’s depth chart for its game against Northern Colorado before it was canceled, so it is likely they will still be out when Tennessee takes on the Gators.

Jim McElwain, despite winning the SEC East the past two years, is just 3-8 in game against ranked opponents. Tennessee comes into this year’s game ranked No. 23 in the AP Poll.

Last Game

Florida lost to the Michigan Wolverines 33-17 in both teams’ season opener, played in Arlington, Texas.

Florida coach Jim McElwain named Felipe Franks the Gators’ starting quarterback for their game against Michigan, but Franks was pulled from the game in favor of Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire. The two quarterbacks combined to complete 14 passes on 26 attempts for 181 yards. In addition to the woes in the passing game, Florida managed only 11 rushing yards and turned the ball over three times.

The offense looked stagnant, only managing a field goal for the game. As mentioned previously, Florida’s other 14 points came from its defense.

Florida did not look impressive in its first game. Additionally, having its second game canceled didn’t allow the Gators to get back on the field and work out some problems they experienced against Michigan.

Impact Players

DL CeCe Jefferson - Jefferson recorded only four tackles against Michigan, but tallied 2.5 TFL and one sack. The junior pass rusher showed up to Florida as a five-star recruit but has yet to have a breakout season. After a good performance in Week 1, this year could be Jefferson’s coming out party.

DB CJ Henderson - Freshman corner CJ Henderson committed to Florida in the 11th hour on signing day over Alabama and his hometown Miami Hurricanes. All he did in his Gators debut was record an interception and return it for a touchdown. The four-star recruit seems to have a bright future ahead.

Game Outlook

It looks like this is going to be a close fight to the finish, as the Florida - Tennessee game has been the past several years. The Vols have not beaten Florida in Gainesville since 2003, but this year looks like a great opportunity - though Tennessee’s last trip to The Swamp was, too.

I feel about this game the way I felt about Georgia Tech. I don’t think anyone still really has an idea how good either of these teams is and I expect a very close game on Saturday. But if the Vols can come away with a win here, the outlook for Tennessee’s season could become a bit brighter.