Gainesville, Fla.– The storyline of this week should have been how Florida’s team was getting ready for a hungry Vols team coming into The Swamp. But instead this week has been overshadowed by selfishness and lack of discipline. On Wednesday it was announced that QB Treon Harris and CB Jalen Tabor were suspended for violating the UF Athletic Association’s drug policy. Jalen Tabor is a starter at cornerback for the Gators and his absence will be felt, but sophomore Quincy Wilson seems poised to step up and fill the void for the secondary unit. The Gators are underdogs at home and are looking to get their first 4-0 start to the season since 2012, when the Gators went 11-1.
This may be the best Tennessee Vols team that the Gators have faced in 8 years. Tennessee is coming off a blowout win of FCS Western Carolina and should have been preparing for the Gators for 2 weeks. From top-to-bottom the Volunteers are a more talented team. QB Josh Dobbs is certainly one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC and can spin the ball really well. Dobbs has weapons on the outside that can expose the loss of Jalen Tabor, with wide receivers Marquez North and Pig Howard. The Vols’ most dangerous offensive talent is their running backs, Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara. The Gators defense will have their hands full all afternoon. Florida defensive end Jonathan Bullard has to be in the backfield early and often. If the Gators can stop Tennessee’s high powered offense, Florida should be able to win.
Tennessee’s defense has struggled much of the season and ranks near the bottom in every statistical category. But, the Gators offense has struggled as well this season. The Gators offense only scored 14 points against an average Kentucky defense last week and struggled to maintain any consistency in the passing and running game. Will Grier will have to face Tennessee’s scariest player, defensive end Derek Barnett. With a shaky and young offensive line, Grier may be running for his life tomorrow afternoon. Grier will have to get the ball out quick and decisively. He has been jumpy in the pocket and has ran too much. He needs to learn that this Vols secondary is not very good and he must get confidence early by going through his progressions and deliver the ball to the weapons Florida has. If the Gators can establish the running game early, it will drop the safeties down and allow Grier to get some over-the-top big plays to speedy Brandon Powell and big time playmaker Demarcus Robinson.
This game is tough for me to pick because right now Tennessee is a better team.
Does that mean the Gators can’t or won’t win this game? Of course not. This game is almost a coin flip and could go either way. Dobbs and Grier have both been so up-and-down that neither can really be trusted at this moment in time. Maybe without Treon Harris lurking on the sidelines, Grier can let loose and play with more confidence. I think that Florida wins this game on offense. Tennessee is going to “get theirs” on offense but I think this is the game where the Gators’ offense starts to come alive. 11 in a row for Florida.
Score Prediction: Gators 31 Tennessee 28