Published September 10, 2012 - 5:42pm
NEW: Discuss this topic in the Google+ community for SEC fans.
We’re all aware of Tennessee’s impressive passing attack led by QB Tyler Bray. If the game comes down to a shoot-out, you will have a hard time believing Florida can keep up. However, if the last decade tells us anything, it is that this game usually comes down to who can run the ball better.
As you can see below, the team which ran for more yards has won the last nine meetings and 21 of the last 22.
|Year||Fla Rush Yds||Tenn Rush Yds||Winner||Score|
In 2011, we saw Tennessee start the season last year with outsized offensive stats and blowouts. Then they traveled to Gainesville and were held to 23 points. Justin Hunter got hurt early, and Tennessee really struggled in the running game.
While it’s not impossible for Tennessee to win this game without winning the ground game, it’s safe to assume that the ground game will be a factor in determining the winner of this game.
So who has the upper hand in the running game in 2012?
Florida’s Mike Gillislee will be the best running back on the field Saturday. He’s rushed for 231 yards and four touchdowns on the year, and he’s Florida’s biggest weapon on offense thus far. However, he is nursing a sore groin that flared up against Texas A&M. Backups Matt Jones and Mack Brown will also tote the rock, especially if Gillislee is banged up. Florida has a veteran offensive line, but they aren’t overly consistent.
Tennessee will feature running backs Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane as more of a tandem of backs, with each bringing their own unique positives, qualities and skill sets to the offense. Neal loves to bounce it outside for big gains, while Lane is more of a between the tackles type runner who can add some power to the ground game. Sophomore Devrin Young will mix into the rotation, too, but he’s a burner. All three guys have a veteran offensive line to run behind – a group that has played well so far in 2012.
- Will Muschamp will try and take something away from the Vols’ offense. The question is what will he try and take away? Can you really take away the passing attack? I’m not sure that’s possible, but expect Florida to try and take away the quick-strike bombs and limit Tyler Bray’s time in the pocket.
- Florida has to win the running game. By winning the running game, the Gators have the best defense against Tennessee’s offense – keeping the ball and winning the time of possession. It’s imperative for Florida to establish a ball controlled offense because they do not want to get into a shootout.
- Both teams have to play with the lead. Neither team’s defense is really good enough to play from behind. Both teams have to establish a lead early.
- Tennessee LB Herman Lathers was out last game with a shoulder injury. Dooley says Lathers is questionable.
- Tennessee LB Curt Maggitt nursing a sore toe, and he sat out last game, too. Dooley also said Maggitt is questionable.
- Florida RB Mike Gillislee is nursing a groin injury. He will play, according to Will Muschamp.
- Florida LB Jelani Jenkins broke his thumb Saturday, and he will be out three to four weeks likely. Freshman Antonio Morrison will step in for him.
The line for this game opened as a pick’em, but it moved quickly to favor Tennessee. The early money bet on the Vols moved the line to its current 2.5 point spread.
With Tennessee winning a marquee opening week game against NC State in impressive fashion, the Vols right now are the “sexier” team. Florida has struggled at times this season, but has momentum after a great second half in College Station. Clearly the betting public isn’t sold yet on Florida’s rebound.
The injury to Gillislee is a big one as Florida relies on him in their offense. Add in the home game and the Tennessee fans believing that they will beat Florida for the first time since 2004 (quite a streak) and you have Tennessee as the current favorite by a couple points.