The 47th meeting between Tennessee and Florida may be the most unpredictable matchup in series history.
So why not make some bold predictions, right?
While it may seem counterintuitive in this instance, prognosticating is a fun and irritating activity to participate in as the football season chugs along.
So let’s mosey on down to The Swamp and get loose. It’s Florida Week!
The Vols Will Score On Their First Possession Of The Game
UT has scored just four times out of the last 15 games on their first possession since the beginning of 2016. They have yet to score on the first drive this season - not including Ty Chandler’s kick return against Indiana State.
That will change this weekend.
Tennessee knows they have to get off to a quick start on offense. The unit has carried this team through the first two games of the season and that could be the case once again on Saturday.
Senior tight end Ethan Wolf has already been on record saying that “we have to start fast and hit them in the mouth”. Even with the departure of a few seniors after 2016 - Tennessee still has plenty of leadership on that side of the ball.
This is also the first game of the season where Quinten Dormady is listed as the sole starter on the depth chart. Look for Dormady to take the reigns this weekend and show why he was given the starting job.
I expect the Vols to come out with a very specific - if not scripted - set of plays for the opening drive. If Tennessee can start fast and get a couple stops on defense to start the game, then the fervor of the Gainesville crowd will be stomped out quick.
Both Teams Will Play Two Quarterbacks At Some Point
Even though Tennessee will come out and score on the first possession, it doesn’t mean that they will find success on every possession.
Whether it be due to injury, inefficiency, game plan, or a big lead - both teams will look to their bench riders at some point during the game.
For Tennessee, I think it will be a combination of the game plan/big lead scenario. However, the Gators will look for answers as Feleipe Franks struggles for the second game in a row with very little talent around him.
If the Vols find themselves staring down Malik Zaire or even the everlasting Luke Del Rio behind center, then expect a full assault from the fans as McElwain and co. have dumped standout Will Grier in favor of mediocre cast-offs (minus Franks).
That will not set well with Gator country. But I’m totally cool with it.
Tennessee Will Record Multiple Sacks
I know, UT has just one sack on the season. Nothing to brag about there.
But I am definitely a proponent of the theory that defensive coordinator Bob Shoop has been holding back his main game plan for this game.
Both Georgia Tech and Indiana State combined for just 27 drop backs in two games - limiting Tennessee’s chances to get to the passer. Tennessee did not blitz at all against the Sycamores and still got to the quarterback once.
Shoop’s game plan last season was very effective. The Gators ran for just over 100 yards and the entire offense registered (-9) total yards and an interception on the first six possessions of the second half.
Look for Shoop to unload his blitz packages this week in order to catch the Gators off guard.
The combination of Darrell Taylor and Jonathan Kongbo on the outside should be enough to give the Gators trouble. And if the Vols can continue to get the push in the middle that they have had in the past couple weeks, then anything is possible.
The Vols Will Shutdown Florida’s Running Game
Get ready because this one will be a doozy.
The Gators accumulated a pathetic 11 total rushing yards against the Michigan Wolverines in week one, producing a stellar (0.4) yards per carry.
Even against Tennessee’s recent run-defense standards, that has to give you hope.
One of the main issues with Tennessee’s run defense last season was the unusual amount of injuries to the defensive line. However, in 2017 - even without Derek Barnett - the Vols have one of the more talented defensive lines in recent memory.
With a budding Daniel Bituli and effective Cortez McDowell leading the linebacking corps, the Vols have the talent and the experience to improve this area of the team.
The Vols will also get help from the backfield. Defensive backs Rashaan Gaulden, Todd Kelly, Jr., and Nigel Warrior will be on the field for the majority of the snaps to help provide assistance in defending the ground game.
**EDITOR’S NOTE** Todd Kelly Jr. has since been ruled out of the game due to injury.
Ty Chandler Will Lead The Vols In Rushing, Not John Kelly
This pains me to write this, but I think the Vols will have to look elsewhere other than John Kelly when it comes to their ground game this weekend.
Kelly is the man. He is arguably the most-liked player on the team and throughout the fan base. But Florida is not going to let him beat them.
Florida will load the box against Kelly and force UT to find another solution when it comes to running the ball. Enter freshman running back Ty Chandler.
Chandler showed his speed and vision last week while running the opening kickoff back for a touchdown, and that will propel Larry Scott to find other ways of getting him the ball against Florida.
This has nothing to do with Kelly’s performance during the game and everything to do with Chandler being the x-factor. I do not expect Chandler to out-touch Kelly, but I do believe that the game flow and game plan of Florida’s defense will allow him to take better advantage of his opportunities.
Florida’s defensive line is a decent group. They showed the ability to rush the passer effectively against Michigan, but still allowed over 200 yards on the ground.
The Vols showed how deep they are at running back last week, and I fully expect them to take advantage of that strength against Florida’s weakness.