KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee quarterback legend Casey Clausen weighed in on the Vols’ chances at Florida, and gave his thoughts on Butch Jones on Thursday on the SEC Network.
“I’m gonna say 21-17. I think both defenses are going to control the game,” Clausen said, picking Tennessee to pull out the upset Saturday in Gainesville (3:30 p.m., CBS). “I think whichever team does not turn it over, and whichever team can make a few big plays … in the passing game.
“I don’t think we’re going to be able to run the ball a whole lot against them, and I don’t think they’re gonna be able to run the ball on us,” he said. “So whichever quarterback and receivers, tight ends can make big plays on the perimeter is going to win the game.”
Clausen beat Florida twice at The Swamp, beating Steve Spurrier’s Gators as a 17-point underdog in 2001 — 34-32 — and completing a rare Gainesville sweep with another victory in 2003.
Tennessee hasn’t beat Florida in Gainesville since Clausen, now coach at Calabasas High School in southern California, was behind center for Tennessee.
ESPN’s Peter Burns spoke with Clausen on Thursday while guest-hosting the Paul Finebaum Show on the SEC Network. Burns asked Clausen what he thought about the job Jones is doing at Tennessee.
“I think Coach Jones, when he got there, had a lot of things to correct and fix and put back in place, and I think they’ve done a really good job the last three or four years to recruit the top-flight players and get it how to where we had it back in the day,” Clausen said. “I think every single year they’ve improved, and now it’s about getting to the SEC Championship Game and hopefully to a (New Year’s Six) game.
“I know they lost a lot of guys from last year. I’m impressed with the way they played so far, especially in that Georgia Tech game, being down 14 points and coming back against a team like that. Quinten Dormady showed a lot.”
Dormady, a junior quarterback, will be making his first start in a true road game. Some of the more rabid Tennessee fans have ignored the team’s underdog status in the contest, claiming there’s no good reasons the Vols shouldn’t beat favored Florida.
Clausen, once booed by Vols fans in a 33-9 win over Syracuse because Tennessee failed to execute on a third down, said high expectations come with the territory.
“I think expectations at Tennessee every year are high, and I think that’s part of the reason Coach Jones went to Tennessee and took the job,” Clausen said. “I think in order to put the product that all Tennessee fans and Coach Jones want to put on the field, you have to have players and you have to have top-notch level players, and it goes back to recruiting and development.
“Those first two or three years, the cupboard there was pretty bare.”
Tennessee has delivered back-to-back nine-win seasons and Top 25 rankings for the first time in 10 years, but Jones still takes criticism from his fan base.
Clausen said he sees progress.
“I think each year, Going into Year 5, the talent level is getting better,” Clausen said. “Is it where everybody would want it to be? Probably not. But that’s life in the SEC.
“I think the biggest thing now to when I played — going back 15 years ago —is the parity,” he said. “There’s not a bad team anymore in the SEC.
“There are no more games where you show up on Saturdays and know, because you have more talent than someone, you are gonna win. The parity is as even as it’s been, with Alabama at the top, and everybody else chasing.”