The Tennessee Volunteers have been consistent this decade against Florida – consistent at failing to win even in seasons when Florida had a less-than-competent offense. It has been absurd and agonizing for the Vols against Florida. They find creative and original ways to lose.
By Matt Zemek
The hope this year is that without Butch Jones to mess things up, that improvement will give Tennessee the leverage it needs to handle the 2018 Gators, whose offense looks like a long-term project. If Dan Mullen is going to fundamentally change Florida, it doesn’t seem that the current season will generate such a transformation. Too many flawed pieces, and too few high-end recruits to replace them, are on hand in Gainesville. Mullen, like any first-year coach, is trying to cultivate compatibility with the players he has, but it seems evident that mere compatibility doesn’t matter that much if the potency and effectiveness of those players are constrained by a low ceiling.
Tennessee has this game at home. Playing at home has sometimes helped the Vols against Florida, but not on a regular basis. Vol fans have known too many times the pain of a home game against the Gators which slipped away. Here is what Tennessee has to get right in order to make sure it doesn’t take a wrong turn against a flawed Florida side in Week 4:
1 – THE LSU PLAYBOOK
The LSU Tigers have beaten Miami and especially Auburn because they have not committed a turnover. This Tennessee-Florida game certainly has the look and feel of a game which will be decided more by the losing team’s mistakes than the winning team’s big plays. Both offenses are underwhelming. Both teams’ defenses are doing most of the work. Both teams can’t entirely trust their quarterbacks just yet. This is an old-school game in the sense that the team which makes fewer huge mistakes will probably win. Some turnovers aren’t necessarily bad – an interception on 3rd and 17 from midfield which pins the other team inside its own 10-yard line – but if there is a differential of two or three BAD turnovers in this game, you can trust that the team on the wrong side of that ledger will lose this contest.
2 – PRUITT’S PLAYGROUND
The Florida offensive line is still adjusting to the blocking schemes Dan Mullen wants it to execute. Florida’s offense is a unit in which people are not yet trusted to perform supremely complicated, high-level tasks. This is a managed situation in which Mullen is trying to find better answers, better ways of maximizing the talent at his disposal. It is not going to happen overnight.
This therefore becomes a game in which Jeremy Pruitt can throw twists, stunts, and all sorts of disguises and maneuvers to confuse the Florida offensive line and get consistent pressure on quarterback Feleipe Franks in search of a game-changing turnover. Mullen might be the equal of Pruitt as a tactician on a general level, but with Florida’s current personnel, Pruitt should have the upper hand.
3 – FIELD POSITION
If Florida has to drive 80 yards to score touchdowns, it very likely won’t win. If the Gators just have to drive 55 yards, they have a chance. Tennessee has to leverage this part of the game throughout Saturday’s tussle.