Fearless Prediction: Tennessee vs. Florida
Even during Tennessee’s glory days of the 1990s, Florida Week was filled with stress for most everyone involved in the program. Head coach Phillip Fulmer and that coaching staff felt the pressure, and they coached that way. Finally, in 1998 they figured out that panicking did them no favors. They won 4 of the next 7 meetings, turning that rivalry into a coin flip.
Having leaders like Al Wilson and Casey Clausen helped, but there was a mindset around the program that Steve Spurrier no longer owned the Vols, and certainly not when Ron Zook was Florida’s head coach.
In 2005, Urban Meyer arrived in Gainesville, and everything changed. Meyer went 6-0 against UT. His successor, Will Muschamp went 4-0 against the Vols. Jim McElwain was 2-1 versus UT and so far, Dan Mullen has won both meetings with Tennessee. I did the math so you don’t have to. The Gators 14-1 mark shows that what used to be a rivalry is a rivalry no more.
This season Mullen once again has the Gators rolling. The lone blemish on their record came in the form of last-second loss at College Station. Florida will have to upset Alabama in the SEC Championship Game to get into the College Football Playoff, but the future is bright for that program regardless of what happens the rest of 2020.
As for Tennessee, the Vols are not in a good place. Jeremy Pruitt, who was hired after a string of events including Mullen eventually ignoring UT’s overtures, is 15-17 as the Vols’ head coach. Tennessee has lost 5 straight games. If the Vols lose their final 3 games this season, they will have followed up an 8-game winning streak with an 8-game losing streak (if you are a statistician, let me know the probably of something like that happening).
As for the 2020 version of the Tennessee/Florida game, the statistics don’t bode well for the Vols.
Florida’s offense is ranked 12th in the nation. Tennessee’s offense is ranked 115th. In Kyle Trask, Florida has a Heisman Trophy candidate playing quarterback. Tennessee … does not. The Vols do have the advantage in the running game (at least in terms of individual totals) with Eric Gray leading the charge with 651 rushing yards. But the Gators are so potent in the passing game that they haven’t had to lean on Dameon Pierce (412 rushing yards) very much.
If Florida gets out to an early lead by a couple of scores, it likely would be impossible for UT to catch them. During this recent 5-game losing streak, the Vols have been outscored 108-14 in the second half. Tennessee doesn’t have nearly the offensive firepower to stick with a team like the Gators.
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Defensively these teams are statistically very similar, with Tennessee ranked 60th nationally and Florida 62nd.
Henry To’o To’o and Trevon Flowers have collected 45 tackles each, tying them for the Tennessee lead. Ventrell Miller is tops for the Gators with 52 stops.
With Mullen and Pruitt in charge, Florida has won the past 2 meetings by a combined score of 81-24. Unless something drastic changes for the better (Tennessee) or the worse (Florida), it’s difficult to make the argument that the Vols will be competitive in this game.
Fearless Prediction time …
Florida 42, Tennessee 17
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