GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida and Tennessee will renew their rivalry this Saturday in Knoxville.
The Vols host UF at 3:30 p.m. on CBS, looking to win their 10th straight game and first against the Gators since 2004.
Here are five questions with SEC Country Tennessee beat writer Mike Griffith about this year’s matchup.
1) On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident do the Tennessee coaches and players seem this week?
“7.5. Butch Jones has played it straight, and the players have, too. A couple of weeks ago, Derek Barnett was asked about Florida, and he said Tennessee wasn’t worried about Florida. Nothing more, nothing less. No one seems uptight, though Jones does not like the notion of this being a must-win game. After the Gators, the Vols play Georgia, Texas A&M and Alabama, so there is some logic to him trying to rationalize the game.”
2) You’re familiar with Austin Appleby. How do you think he’ll fare against the Vols and what they do defensively?
“I think Austin’s mobility will extend plays for Florida, but I don’t know what sort of chemistry he has with his receivers. Appleby is a tough guy to bring down, and he’s a smart quarterback. I don’t think people realize how limited his resources were at Purdue. I don’t think he will be the difference in the game, and I don’t think Luke Del Rio would have, either.”
3) The Vols have struggled on offense this season. What weaknesses must they improve on against UF?
“Consistency. Tennessee has looked good at times, in spurts, but the offensive line has had breakdowns. The Tennessee staff has moved players around in an effort to find the right combination and/or chemistry up front, but we’ve yet to see a definitive five emerge. This week, offensive tackle Chance Hall is expected back in the lineup after missing the first three games with arthroscopic knee surgery.”
4) What are the Vols’ strengths on offense that could work to their advantage in this game?
“Josh Dobbs is still the top threat with his running ability. The Vols have some nice playmakers at receiver with Josh Malone and Preston Williams, and tight end Jason Croom could be a factor. It will be interesting to see how Alvin Kamara fits into the scheme. He’s got a lot of speed and could present a matchup problem for the Gators. Florida’s front will look to eliminate Jalen Hurd, as most opponents have this season.”
5) What is Tennessee’s biggest strength and weakness on defense?
“The Vols’ secondary was very strong with Cam Sutton, but now that the All-SEC cornerback is out with a fractured ankle, there are questions at cornerback. Junior Justin Martin and true freshman Baylen Buchanan will get the call to replace Sutton, while Emmanuel Moseley starts on the other corner. I wouldn’t call the secondary a weakness, but I would say it’s “suspect.” Same at linebacker, where middle linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. is out, and Jalen Reeves-Maybin is coming off a strained shoulder. If Reeves-Maybin is out, Florida backs could thrive. The defensive front is the strength on the defense.”