No.1 Florida (2-0) vs. Tennessee (1-1)
KICKOFF: 3:30 p.m., Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville
SERIES HISTORY: The all-time series is tied 19-all. UF has won four straight dating back to 2005, Urban Meyer's first season on the job. The Gators have never led in the all-time series. The Gators have won 17 of the past 23 contests, including nine of the last 11 in The Swamp.
SCOUTING REPORT: Florida can win its 13th straight game, which would break a school record. UF leads the nation in total offensive yards (1,287), yards per touch (10.5) and offensive touchdowns (16). The Gators have three running backs in the top 10 nationally in yards per carry. Jeff Demps ranks No.1 (14.7), Chris Rainey is No.5 (12.4) and Emmanuel Moody is No.9 (9.8). No other school in the nation has two running backs in the top 10. Tennessee is ranked No.20 nationally in rushing defense, allowing 59.50 yards per carry. UT is allowing 1.80 yards per carry.
PREDICTION: Florida 34, Tennessee 6. Finally, the Gators play a team worthy of their immense talent level. Well, maybe not this year. Tennessee's quarterback is a walking ball of nerves and the Vols' interior line limps into The Swamp thin and vulnerable. Vols coach Lane Kiffin will not be singing Rocky Top after this one is over.
GAINESVILLE -- Well, it's time to sing or shut up.
Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin has done a lot of talking since he was introduced as the Vols' replacement to coach Phil Fulmer on Dec.1, 2008. The back story is well documented. If you want a refresher course of the extensive list of bulletin-board material Kiffin provided the Gators this offseason, then CLICK ME!
We've had a lot of fun on the blog this week poking fun at the Tennessee Volunteers -- CLICK ME! and CLICK ME! -- but, truth be told, all the nonsense and pregame hype will evaporate after the first five minutes of the game. After that, execution, stamina and poise will replace every sound bite and newspaper clipping.
Florida had trouble executing during first quarter of last week's 56-6 win against Troy. The Gators fumbled the ball four times -- two for turnovers -- during their first six offensive series of the game. Thanks to three Troy turnovers, Florida's offense erupted for four scores in the second quarter and the game was over before halftime (35-3). Saturday's game against Tennessee might prove a little more difficult.
Tennessee's defense, coached by defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, is allowing less than 60 rushing yards per game. Florida's rushing attack is averaging 330 yards. That statistics brings us to the ...
KEYS OF THE GAME
1. Florida running back Jeff Demps has emerged as the Gators first option out of the backfield. The sophomore has rushed for three touchdowns and is averaging 88 yards a game. Can Demps, Chris Rainey and Emmanuel Moody gash Tennessee's defense? Will Tennessee strong safety Eric Berry play near the line of scrimmage to help limit UF's running backs? That was the subject of today's story in The Miami Herald and you can read all about it right here, CLICK ME!
2. After quarterback Jon Crompton tossed three interceptions last week in the Vols' loss to UCLA, Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin probably isn't going to rely on his senior quarterback to beat the Gators. Tennessee's rushing attack is the Vols' only hope of keeping this game close. Vols senior Montario Hardesty ranks 11th nationally in yards per game (124.50). Hardesty and back-up Bryce Brown will try to chew up yards and time of possession. Considering the Volunteers injuries along the offensive line -- CLICK ME! -- it will be difficult.
3. Brandon James, CLICK ME!
4. Tim Tebow. The senior is undefeated against the Volunteers and he launched his 2009 Heisman Trophy campaign last week, accounting for five touchdowns against Troy. Oh, yeah, and Tebow said on Monday that "he's got [Meyer's] back" this Saturday after UT coach Lane Kiffin called Meyer a cheater in February.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
1. Lawrence Marsh: Florida's defensive tackle missed the first two games of the season with an ankle injury. He is expected to return this Saturday, according Meyer, and Marsh's presence along the defensive line will be needed against a stout Tennessee rushing attack.
2. Janoris Jenkins: Florida's cornerback returned from his one-game suspension last week and recorded his first interception of the season. Jenkins' first start of his career came last year against Tennessee. He solidified his role as a starter with an interception in the UT end zone and a forced fumble.
3. Eric Berry: Tennessee's strong safety is one of the best defenders in the nation. If you don't agree, just ask Florida cornerback Joe Haden, CLICK ME! In his last game in The Swamp, Berry intercepted a pass from Tebow and returned it for a touchdown. Berry will likely play multiple positions on Saturday, so keep an eye on No.14.
4. Emmanuel Moody: Florida's redshirt junior running back started against Tennessee last season but left the game with a high-ankle sprain. Moody has been fighting to regain his form ever since. A fumble on his first carry last week didn't help his cause. Florida coach Urban Meyer said that he still has confidence in Moody but UF running back's coach Kenny Carter said this week that Moody's fumble was a case of gross negligence: Carrying the ball to low, which allowed Troy defensive end Brandon Lang to knock the ball lose on a tackle from behind.
5. Brandon Spikes: Florida's senior linebacker was relatively quiet during the Gators' first two games of the season. Spikes has a knack for playing well in big games.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder (former Gator): "Lane Kiffin bit off more than he could chew." [Meyer] isn't "going to pull the dogs off and I don't want him to get Tebow hurt, but I want to beat the [HAPPY WORD] out of them at least by 30 or 40. And let Lane shut the [HAPPY WORD] up the rest of the time he's in the SEC."
Tennessee defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin: "I think what they do at the University of Florida is, whatever you run the 100 meters in they give you that jersey number. Percy Harvin had 1, Demps wears 2 and Rainey wears 3. So, the way I look at it, Percy Harvin runs a 10.1, then they're at 10.2 and 10.3 in the 100 meters -- that's pretty fast. They ought to be a track relay team."
Former Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer: "You know, everybody has the chance to do things their way. We were very pleased with what we were able to accomplish during the majority of our time at Tennessee, and we did it without having to be brash and so on. But this is his style -- what he thought he had to do. ...
"We didn't have a very good season last year (5-7). I certainly take full responsibility for that. And now it's (Kiffin's) turn to do it as he thinks he needs to do it. But the problem in this league is you're going to play great football teams every week once you get into the Southeastern Conference schedule. So, if you're going to be brash, you'd better be able to back it up."
Florida quarterback Tim Tebow: "It will be ridiculous. It will be so exciting and fun. I think what I'm most looking forward to is that bus ride in right before the Gator Walk. When you see the fans walking the streets, all the way down there, through Museum (Drive) and everything, it's just so exciting to see that, it's just cool. That's what gets your adrenaline pumping and it's just crazy from there."