Tennessee will travel to Gainesville on Saturday. That’s good news for everybody.
After a ton of speculation over the weekend and early this week about whether the game could be played in “The Swamp” because of Hurricane Irma’s impact, it was finally announced Tuesday afternoon that the game would take place as scheduled.
Both sides benefit. The Gators get their home game as anticipated, and the Volunteers won’t have to sacrifice a home game against the Gators in the future. That likely would have been the case if the game had to be played in Knoxville or another location.
So, now that everything is back to normal, let’s talk about the game. It’s fairly interesting from a matchup standpoint.
Florida can’t score, and Tennessee can’t stop anybody. At least that seems to be the common narrative. The Gators only mustered a field goal against Michigan in Week 1, as their two touchdowns came by way of pick-sixes. The Vols, meanwhile, gave up a school-record 535 rushing yards to Georgia Tech in Week 1.
In Week 2, Tennessee’s defense looked much better — but it was against lowly Indiana State. Florida didn’t play its scheduled game against Northern Colorado because of the hurricane. It remains to be seen what impact that will have on the Gators. What’s more valuable early in the season, reps or rest?
On the other side of the ball, Florida may have a slight advantage with its defense at home, but it’s close talent-wise. Tennessee’s offense has been able to put up 42 points in each of its first two contests. The Gators allowed 33 to Michigan.
Typically in a game like this, you’d lean with the home team. After all, Vegas is giving Florida a 5.5-point edge. But perhaps the wiser thing to do is to lean with the better quarterback in the fourth quarter of what should be a tight game.
Quinten Dormady can be the difference-maker for Tennessee.
The Vols’ junior gunslinger has shown plenty of promise thus far. Against Georgia Tech, in his first career start, Dormady completed 20 of 37 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns. If you factor in the six drops, Dormady would have been closer to a 70 percent completion rate.
He completed 72 percent of his passes against Indiana State and tossed another pair of TD’s. Dormady didn’t have a ton of yards against the Sycamores (194), but the offense was simplified and Butch Jones gave redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano reps with the first team.
Outside of an ugly third-quarter interception in Week 2, Dormady has been more than serviceable. For a player who only has two games under his belt as a starter, you could even say he’s been reliable. That’s not to say Dormady is one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC — he’s probably not even in the Top 5 — but he’s a better option at the position than anyone Florida has on its roster.
Florida quarterbacks have been essentially nonexistent since Tim Tebow left Gainesville. The Gators played two QBs — Feleipe Franks and Malik Zaire — against Michigan. Neither threw a touchdown, eclipsed 106 passing yards or had a completion rate better than 55.6 percent.
Neither got a chance to work out those issues in Week 2, either. That’s a possible advantage for the Vols.
The Gators’ passing attack appears to still be lacking, and top pass-catcher Antonio Callaway likely will not be on the field Saturday, either. Leading rusher Jordan Scarlett didn’t show up on the Gators’ depth chart, either.
The point is, Dormady doesn’t have to have a breakout game against the Gators. He doesn’t need to throw for 300 yards and four touchdowns. He just has to be the better quarterback in the fourth quarter, and at this point, there’s nothing to indicate he won’t be.
Dormady has already shown he can make plays with a game on the line, as evidenced by his 50-yard touchdown strike to Marquez Callaway against Georgia Tech with the Vols trailing 28-14.
The Tennessee-Florida series has been decided by one point in two of the past three years. There’s a good chance this will be a close game, too, because of all the question marks.
Dormady will be going up against a talented secondary capable of forcing mistakes, which was proven in the Michigan game. However, also evidenced in that game was its potential to give up big plays. The Wolverines had three pass plays of over 30 yards.
Dormady has a much bigger arm than other recent Tennessee quarterbacks and has an ability push the ball downfield. If he is able to hit a couple of those big passes while also continuing to throw the ball efficiently in the short game, Tennessee will be able to challenge Florida with a balanced offense.
And that would likely lead to a second consecutive Tennessee victory for just the third time since 1970.