10 bold predictions for Tennessee vs. Florida
The Tennessee-Florida series isn’t what it once was, but it’s still a rivalry that should be taken incredibly seriously by both programs.
Imagine the potential repercussions that could occur pending the outcome of Saturday’s game. If Florida loses, Gators fans will begin to seriously question the hiring of coach Dan Mullen, which was thought to be one of the best hires in the offseason. If Florida loses to the Vols, the Gators will be 0-2 in the SEC East with losses against two teams they’ve owned in recent years, Kentucky and UT.
If Tennessee loses, it’s quite possible that UT’s fan base will throw in the towel this season. The Vols got their hopes up before a whipping in the season opener against West Virginia. UT’s lackluster win over UTEP last week was in front of a paltry crowd, that some have estimated around 50,000. What will UT’s fan base think if the Vols lose to Florida with Georgia, Auburn, South Carolina and Alabama coming up next? UT’s fans might still be patient after a loss to Florida, but UT’s fans will also surely be a bit apathetic if they see the Vols lose at home.
An early season, crossroad game will take place in Neyland Stadium on Saturday at 7 p.m. No, it’s not for a championship, but the hopes and dreams of two teams hoping to rebuild quickly will be at stake. Here are 10 bold predictions for the UT-Florida game:
1. Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks will throw for his career high in passing yards
Franks’ career high is just 232 passing yards. That shouldn’t be difficult to top against the Vols, who are still trying to rebuild their secondary in Pruitt’s image. The Vols also don’t have much of a pass rush, so Franks should have plenty of time in the pocket.
2. Jarrett Guarantano will throw for more yards than Franks
Guarantano is a slightly better passer than Franks statistically. Guarantano ranks sixth in the SEC in passer efficiency. Franks is seventh. However, Franks actually throws for 35 yards more per game than Guarantano. However, UT’s receivers continue to improve. I think they have a strong outing on Saturday, which leads to …
3. … Jauan Jennings will be UT’s leading receiver
It’s been a long road back for Jennings, who quit UT’s team last year but was allowed to return. Jennings also missed spring practice with a knee injury. He’s Tennessee’s most talented receiver and seems ready for a breakout game.
4. Ty Chandler will have a gain over 40 yards
Chandler has shown his explosiveness on several occasions throughout his career. He had an 81-yard touchdown run against UTEP last week. He’s UT’s fastest running back, which makes him a great changeup to the other, more powerful backs the Vols will use Saturday.
5. Tennessee will have three backs gain over 40 yards rushing
It will take some play-calling ingenuity since UT’s offensive line isn’t up to snuff. However, the Vols have a stable of capable running backs with Chandler, Tim Jordan, Madre London and Jeremy Banks. They’ll be hungry for every opportunity against Florida’s defense, which is 12th in the SEC against the run.
6. Nigel Warrior will make an impact play
Warrior, who is third on the team with 13 tackles, is just too good to not make a huge play this season. That will change on Saturday. Watch for Warrior to force a fumble, recover a fumble or intercept a pass against the Gators.
7. Florida will go for it on fourth down at least twice — and convert at least twice
Mullen has never been shy about going for it on fourth down. That’s probably because he’s good at it. His multiple offense is fundamentally and schematically sound, so he likes his chances when it’s 4th-and-short. Mullen won’t likely throw it deep like former Florida coach Steve Spurrier liked to do against the Vols, but the Gators will have some 4th-down plays ready.
8. The two teams will combine for at least 4 sacks
Simply put, these two offensive lines are young, inexperienced and/or not very good at most positions. Florida is eighth in the SEC in sacks allowed. Tennessee is 10th. It could be a rough game for any quarterback who takes the field Saturday night.
9. The game will be within a touchdown with less than 10 minutes in the fourth quarter
These two teams don’t have enough experience with their current coaching staffs to easily put away another team. They also aren’t nearly as talented as previous seasons. Both teams will make enough mistakes to keep the game close.
10. Tennessee will cover the spread
The Vols are 4.5-point underdogs to the Gators. I expect UT to cover that. However, given the Vols history in this series, there will likely be one monumental play late in the game that will keep the Vols from securing the win.