Yep, it’s that time of year.
The Vols face off against the Florida Gators in what appears to be anyone’s guess as to who will win the game. Both teams have had underwhelming performances on the season, but whoever loses this game will most likely be the bottom-dweller of the SEC East.
Tennessee will need some big plays come Saturday.
1. Jarrett Guarantano will set a career-high in passing yards.
The popular idea is that since Kentucky ran all over the Gators then that’s exactly what the Vols will do. Does that sound familiar to anyone?
Everyone, including myself, thought the Vols would come out and pound a soft West Virginia defensive front. Even though Tennessee ended up with over 100 yards on the ground against the Mountaineers, doing so against Florida won’t be easy.
Believe it or not, the strength of this offense lies in the passing game. Florida’s secondary is banged up. If the Vols can get consistent pass protection, then Guarantano should have a big day.
He’s only thrown for over 200 yards twice - both times last year - with his highest mark reaching 242 yards.
Guarantano eclipses that mark this weekend.
2. Jauan Jennings will eclipse 100 receiving yards.
Even though Josh Palmer is my x-factor this week, I believe Jennings will have more of a consistent role in helping this offense move the ball.
He scored his first touchdown since 2016 against UTEP last week and it’s easy to see why he will build off of that this week.
Jennings sparked Tennessee’s comeback in 2016 and he’s chomping at the bit to be the dominate player he was before being injured last season.
3. Feilepe Franks doesn’t go over 150 yards passing.
Franks has been the model of inconsistency and I believe that bleeds over into this week. He’s thrown for over 200 yards twice already this season, but threw for just 119 yards against lowly Colorado State.
The Tennessee home crowd is going to be insane, which will cause communication issues amongst Franks and his teammates. It won’t be a surprise to anyone if the Gators come out and try to run the ball early and often considering how Franks started out against Colorado State.
Baker Mayfield threw for just 187 yards when the Sooners came to Knoxville in 2015 and that was in front of the most raucous crowd at Neyland Stadium, ever.
Franks will struggle mightily in his first trip to Knoxville and the results will be a below-average day.
4. Josh Palmer has at least two 30+ yard plays.
Whether it be rushing or receiving, Palmer has shown he can make plays on the field.
He will be the perfect complement to Jennings and Marquez Callaway. Florida recently moved receiver Dre Massey to the slot due to injuries, which Palmer should feast on.
Plus, he’s my x-factor for the week, so why not give him some more love?
5. Tennessee gets at least two interceptions.
The Vols have just one game with at least two interceptions since November 2016 and that was this year against ETSU.
It really hurt to type that sentence out, but unfortunately, it’s true.
But I think they are able to fool Franks on a couple plays and combined with the crowd noise, it’s almost inevitable that the Gators’ quarterback is bound to make some mistakes.
This defense has improved over the weeks and is hungry to prove that they aren’t as soft as West Virginia showed them to be.
What better time to have a coming out party than against one of your biggest rivals?