Five keys for Tennessee vs Florida

Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (via Randall Stewart)

It’s rivalry week is here for the No. 23 Tennessee Volunteers, it’s time to see what Team 121 is all about as Butch Jones leads the Vols head down to Gainesville to take on No. 24 Florida Gators. The Gators enter this years matchup as 5 1/2 point favorites per vegas, even though the Gators are 0–1 after Hurricane Harvey forced the Gators to cancel their week two cupcake opponent Northern Colorado. If Tennessee expects to waltz into one of the most hostile enviroments in college football and walk away with a upset, the Vols will have to checkmark all five of these points.

  1. Rush for least 150 yards on the ground

If Tennessee wants to walk out of Gainesville with a little win streak of its own, the Vols will have to control the ball and time of possession. This means running back John Kelly will have to be huge this weekend, easing some of the pressure on new quarterback Quinten Dormady. Kelly doesn’t have to rush for 150 by himself, Freshman Ty Chandler has shown already that he can be a solid no. 2 at the running back position. The downside is that Dormady has shown this year that he is hesitant in the read-option. However, the Gator defensive ends are sure to leave some openings for him if he is able to read them corectly, pull the ball and hit the edge.

2. Win the turnover game

We saw it in week one with Michigan against Florida, this Gators team doesn’t have the dominant speed and athleticism on offense that we have seen in years past. Unable to move the ball down the field, Florida will look to its defense to put points on the board. If Tennessee can avoid turnovers and keep the ball out of the hands of Florida’s secondary, Tennessee and Dormady can have a season defining day in the Swamp.

3. Special teams

The field position battle always plays a key role against the Gators, luckily I give the nod to the Vols on this one. If you can remember the 10–9 game in 2014, the only way the struggling Gators offense could put up any points was with decent starting field position. This years matchup should be very simular. If Trevor Daniel can pin the Gators offense deep and force them to string together long drives and Evan Berry and the Tennessee return team can put some points on the board, the Vols can control this game from the start.

4. Quick start (don’t fall behind)

This years game isn’t played in Neyland, and as much as the heart-attack Vols thrive from behind, Tennessee can not afford to fall behind early in The Swamp. This weekend’s game will be the first true road test for Quinten Dormady and if the game comes down to his arm and composure late in the second half, I’m not sure if the young quarterback will be able to mount a comeback. As much fun as last year was, do not expect the Vols to score 38 unanswered points in the Swamp.

5. Win in the trenches

This is my biggest key for Tennessee this weekend. With all the talk this week about the Vols defensive line, they will need to step up big this weekend. A lot was expected of new defensive line coach Brady Hoke when he first arrived on campus. With 5-star upper-class lineman Shy Tuttle, Khalil McKenzie, and Kyle Phillips all healthy, it’s time for Bob Shoop and Hoke to dial up some pressure on Florida’s inexperienced quarterbacks — i.e. DO NOT LINE UP A YARD OFF THE BALL.

The offensive line will also have to play big this weekend, opening holes for Kelly and Chandler in the backfield, as well as protecting Dormady in the pocket. Florida has always been known for having exceptional talent on the defensive line and will without a doubt test the Volunteers’ front five. Expect Saturday to be a coming out party for freshman lineman and top rated recruit Trey Smith, who will be facing SEC caliber talent for the first time in his career.