KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee coach Butch Jones has said several times already this season that, “football is a game of one-on-one matchups,” and it’s likely the Vols’ game with Florida will prove that correct.
Tennessee puts its nine-game win streak on the line against the Gators with hopes of ending Florida’s 11-game win streak in the SEC East Division rivalry series.
The No. 14-ranked Vols (3-0) kick off against the No. 19-ranked Gators (3-0) at 3:30 p.m. at Neyland Stadium (TV: CBS).
Here’s a look at how the teams position groups compare, but it will be up to the coaching staffs to create the one-on-one matchups between offense and defense with their schemes:
Florida: Fifth-year graduate transfer Austin Appleby gets his first start for the Gators after an indiscernible career at Purdue. Appleby has good size (6-4, 238) and mobility and present a run option for Florida.
Tennessee: Senior Josh Dobbs will be looking to cement his legacy as the most exciting dual-threat quarterback for Tennessee since the CFL and Vols Hall of Famer Condredge Holloway with a win over the Gators. Dobbs doesn’t throw like Holloway could, but he’ll need a good day vs. Florida.
Florida: The Gators will rotate four backs, Jordan Scarlett is the most explosive in the group, while Jordan Cronkite is a shifty third-down back. Freshman Lamical Perine has burst and is the best all-around back
Tennessee: Jalen Hurd has yet to really get on track this season, averaging 4.2 yards per carry with a long run of 28 yards. Alvin Kamara is a captain and the speed back, versatile enough to do damage as runner or receiver. Sophomore John Kelly could surprise given the opportunity.
RECEIVERS / TIGHT ENDS
Florida: Brandon Powell is dangerous in the slot and poses matchup problems coming out of the slot. Freshman Tyreke Cleveland can be dynamic if he overcomes his hamstring injury. Antonio Callaway is one of the top receivers in the nation and is coming off a quad injury.
Tennessee: Josh Malone has been on fire with nine catches for 196 yards and four touchdowns. Tight end Jason Croom could emerge, back from knee injury that sidelined him last season. Josh Smith has had a quiet start to the season but could factor in, as could Preston Williams and speedster Tyler Byrd.
Florida: Right tackle Tyler Jordan is out, so freshman Jawaan Taylor will start. It’s a big, strong lineup with 5-star lineman Martez Ivey (6-5, 305) and jumbo left tackle David Sharpe (6-6, 357).
Tennessee: The weakness of the team to this point, the Vols could get a lift from the return right tackle Chance Hall. Drew Richmond might be back in the starting lineup at left tackle. Jashon Robertson and Dylan Wiesman must come up big on the interior.
Florida: The Gators will go eight deep, with Jabari Zuniga an explosive edge rusher and Bryan Cox Jr. a consistent presence. Caleb Brantley is considered a top NFL prospect at defensive tackle, and Joey Ivie is making his sixth start.
Tennessee: End Derek Barnett is coming off his strongest performance, while senior Corey Vereen looks to continue to impress NFL scouts. Shy Tuttle has played his way back in at defensive tackle and is a playmaker, while Danny O’Brien and Kendal Vickers have performed well. Jonathan Kongbo looks to make a significant impact.
Florida: Not deep, but among the top in the nation. Jarrad Davis is a projected first-round pick, and Alex Anzalone is an every-down linebacker that makes plays.
Tennessee: The Vols are also shallow and will be hoping senior Jalen Reeves-Maybin can play at 100 percent after suffering a shoulder strain last week. Colton Jumper played well last week, but faces a challenge with the speedy Gators.
Florida: Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson are among the best cornerback combinations in the nation, and safety Marcus Maye is another future NFL player. One of two teams not to give up a passing touchdown this season.
Tennessee: Safeties Todd Kelly Jr. and Micah Abernathy will need their best tackling game, as both have had misses this season. Cornerbacks Justin Martin, Emmanuel Moseley and Baylen Buchanan must step up with Cam Sutton sidelined by injury.
Florida: Punter Johnny Townsend is averaging 50.3 yards per punt, and junior college kicker Eddie Pineiro is off to a 5-of-7 on field goals including a 54-yard make. Antonio Callaway set a school freshman punt return record last season.
Tennessee: The Vols could use a lift from kick return specialist Evan Berry, who has battled hamstring issues. Kicker Aaron Medley is 3-of-5 on field goals, while punter Trevor Daniel is averaging 43.7 per punt this season.