Will Tennessee win more games than Florida?
Five weeks ago, it seemed liked neither team was capable of winning, even against each other. The Week 6 matchup between Florida and Tennessee featured two teams lacking offensive production.
The Vols held the Gators scoreless through three quarters, but only managed three field goals. Florida answered with 10 points in the fourth as backup Treon Harris led the Gators to their 10th consecutive win over Tennessee.
Entering November, neither team looked like a lock for a bowl game. Florida was 3-3 and head coach Will Muschamp’s job was in jeopardy. Tennessee was 3-5, winless in SEC games and faced uncertainty at quarterback without injured starter Justin Worley.
But both teams have seen a turnaround in recent weeks with the emergence of new quarterbacks. Harris is 2-0 since claiming the Florida’s starting role in Week 10, including a debut win over then-No. 11 Georgia. Joshua Dobbs earned SEC Player of the Week honors after leading Tennessee to a late-game comeback against South Carolina that same week.
With three games remaining, both teams have a chance to make a bowl game. But which team will finish with the better record?
Florida’s remaining schedule includes Saturday’s game against South Carolina, a home game against Eastern Kentucky (Nov. 22) and the regular season finale at No. 2 Florida State (Nov. 29). Tennessee will play all of its remaining games in its home state, including home games against Kentucky (Nov. 15) and Missouri (Nov. 22) and a road matchup against Vanderbilt (Nov. 29).
Though the Gators have one more win, the Vols could match their record by season’s end. Tennessee should be favored in each remaining matchup. Kentucky faces a four-game losing streak and is 0-3 in road games. Missouri enters Week 12 at 7-2, but hasn’t looked convincing in matchups against weak competition. Vanderbilt became the first team eliminated from bowl contention last week and has failed to stay close in conference games.
The Gators are favored against South Carolina this weekend, but will be tested against a talented offense. Though its far from a lock, Florida should hold an advantage over the Gamecocks’ struggling defense. Eastern Kentucky is an expected win even without the Gators’ turnaround.
Florida’s toughest test will be reigning champion FSU. The Seminoles look to continue their perfect season by winning their second consecutive game against their non-conference rival.
Tennessee would exceed its expectations with an eight-win season in Butch Jones’ second year as head coach. Should the Vols win out, including their bowl game, they will see a three-game improvement from 2013.
What once seemed impossible is now a realistic goal. Tennessee could surpass the Gators in the conference standings and end its season on a high note.