SEC

College Football Preview: Florida Gators vs. Tennessee Volunteers

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3:30 PM ET, CBS
Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Laying the scene

If you've watched the Gators in the first two weeks of the season, you know they haven't looked like the same team that ran amuck through the college ranks the past several years. A lot's been made of the personnel changes, although the most notable change (John Brantley taking over for Tim Tebow at quarterback) hasn't been the sole reason for this team's struggles. It's been miscues all around and an overall stagnation that has hurt the Gators. Nevertheless, Florida enters the third week with a ton of talent, a 2-0 record and a top ten ranking.

Tennessee is looking to bounce back from a disheartening loss to Oregon last Saturday with an SEC win to open conference play and get a leg up on the Gators in the SEC East race in the process. Tauren Poole has been a nice little surprise in place of the departed Bryce Brown, rushing for 111 yards in the first quarter and finishing with 162 yards and a touchdown last Saturday. He'll face a tough Florida defense in this one whose personnel changes shouldn't cause them any irreversible woes.

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What Florida has to do to win

Score early. Tennessee doesn't have an ultra-prolific offense or anything, but in a hostile environment like Neyland Stadium, the fans and a psyched up defense will make it awfully hard for the Gators to get back in it if they're down early. Oregon overcame a deficit in Knoxville last Saturday, but animosity towards the Gators is a little bit more pronounced than animosity towards the Ducks. The offense needs to click and click early to jump out to an early lead or they'll find themselves as challenged as ever to move the ball on the Volunteers in the second half. An offense ripe with personnel changes has had two games to adjust, so now's the time to bring it all together.

John Brantley, according to the St. Petersburg Times, seems to agree, remarking, "The next thing we need to do is have it together from the beginning. We started out a little slow, but towards the end of the first half and second half, we got it going. But we need to have that together that first drive."

What Tennessee has to do to win

Avoid turnovers. Florida ranks second in the nation with a turnover margin of 3.00. Ahmad Black already has three picks and Janoris Jenkins has two. What's more, two of the Gators' eight interceptions have been returned for a touchdown. Tennessee cannot afford to throw picks or fumble the ball against this Gators team, whose offense you can bet will capitalize on any mistakes regardless of whatever struggles it's endured thus far.

Not to take anything away from quarterback Matt Simms, but the Volunteers also need to make sure to establish Tauren Poole early to get it going on the ground. That'll not only move the ball, but will open things up a bit for Simms. Helping a relatively inexperienced quarterback as he faces a dynamic, ball-hawking secondary will be a major key to victory for Tennessee.

The call

Despite their struggles, it's hard to pick against Florida considering they've won five straight against a Tennessee team that is rebuilding. A lot of attention was paid to the offensive side of the ball in this preview, but don't discount for a minute the importance of aggressive defense in this one. This is a fierce rivalry with everybody involved hell-bent on coming away with the win. Fearless yet smart defense is a must for both teams. At this point, despite the personnel changeover, Florida has the advantage.- Danny Hobrock

Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.

 

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