Tennessee Preview: Florida Gators

Tennessee Preview: Florida Gators
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Tennessee Volunteers (1-2) at #9 Florida Gators (3-0)
Gainesville, Florida
12pm ET on ESPN

Series History

Saturday will mark the 49th meeting between the Tennessee Vols and Florida Gators. The Gators lead the all-time series 28-20 including 13 out of the last 14 dating back to 2005. The two teams have put on masterful performances in recent years, including Tennessee’s second half comeback in 2016 and Florida’s last second game-winning passes in 2015 and 2017. As the Vols look to climb back into bowl contention, their season hangs heavily on Saturday’s outcome.

Related Article: Kyle Trask Leads Florida (click here to view)

Keys to Winning on Offense

The good news for Tennessee is that they enter The Swamp coming off of a 45-0 performance against Chattanooga. The bad news is that it was Chattanooga, a team (like Georgia State) that Tennessee is expected to blowout. While Florida’s defense isn’t nearly as impressive as in recent years, they remain a strong unit. Through three games the Gators have allowed less than 14 points per game. Following a solid performance against Chattanooga, quarterback Jarrett Guarantano looks to silence critics in Gainesville and that is exactly what the Vols need to pull the upset. Throughout this season, the redshirt junior has struggled mightily and his poise and confidence have shown it. Against Florida, Guarantano must limit his mistakes and take advantage of any situation he is presented with.

Despite Guarantano’s struggles, wide receiver Juaun Jennings has posted impressive numbers. He has 12 receptions and four of them have been touchdowns. Jennings, who has a long history with the Gators, will be Tennessee’s emotional leader on Saturday. The running back group has been the more explosive of the position groups and that must continue on Saturday. Ty Chandler and Eric Gray have put up solid numbers over the past few weeks behind an offensive line that has improved each week. In order for Tennessee to win, the offense must play sound football for four quarters and that starts with Jarrett Guarantano.

Tennessee Defense Must Step Up

The Volunteer defense held Chattanooga to zero points and forced five turnovers. Both are stats that coaches and fans, regardless of opponent, like to see. A not-so-pretty stat is that the defense failed to record a single stat against a division two offense. Leader Darrell Taylor and the front six for Tennessee must get more pressure on opposing offenses. If they allow Florida’s backup quarterback Kyle Trask to have all day in the pocket, look for Tennessee’s secondary to allow some long pass plays downfield. The Vols have shown glimpses of promise but have also shown glaring weaknesses across their entire defense. One promising spot in Tennessee’s defense is freshman Henry To’oto’o. To’oto’o is currently second on the team in tackles and has led the defense during the absence of veteran Daniel Bituli. Tennessee’s defense will play a major role in guiding the Vols to victory.

To Play Or Not To Play

Last week head coach Jeremy Pruitt announced that suspended corner Bryce Thompson would resume practicing with the Vols. On Wednesday, Pruitt added that Thompson would travel with the team to Gainesville. The comment ended there, but many believe that Thompson could very well end up seeing the field against Florida. Should the cornerback be allowed to play, Tennessee’s defense will see a huge step up in the secondary. On the flip side, Thompson missed three weeks of practice and has yet to see live reps this season. If he does play, don’t expect him to be the freshman All-American that he was last season right off the bat.

The Thompson news wasn’t the only headliner for Tennessee this week. Converted linebacker Jeremy Banks was arrested Sunday morning for failing to appear in traffic court. While it was a misdemeanor and a simple mistake, Jeremy Pruitt has shown that he does not tolerate off-the-field incidents. Banks had a stellar performance against Chattanooga where he recorded his first two career interceptions. Don’t be surprised if Pruitt forces Banks to sit for the a quarter or maybe even the first half against Florida. Having both Bryce Thompson and Jeremy Banks available for the Gators will provide much needed depth to Tennessee’s defense.

Score Prediction:

Tennessee 23, Florida 31

Andrew’s Prediction Record: 1-2

Odds: Florida (-14)

Tennessee has shown to be a very unpredictable team in recent years. They have been dominated by highly ranked teams and upset ranked opponents such as Auburn and Kentucky last year. 14 points is a pretty large spread for a fierce SEC East rivalry. Tennessee may not win but they should cover the spread.

Bold Prediction:

Brian Maurer will see playing time due to a Jarrett Guarantano injury. Alontae Taylor will score a defensive touchdown.