Week 4 - Tennessee at Florida
Tennessee LB A.J. Johnson
Tennessee LB A.J. Johnson
Posted Sep 18, 2013

Week 4 Fearless Predictions - Tennessee at Florida

Tennessee(2-1) at Florida (2-1) Sept. 14, 3:30, ESPN

Why You Should Give A Hoot: There was a time not all that long ago when this rivalry ruled the college football world. It was Spurrier, it was Manning, it was Wuerffel, it was Fulmer, it was Clausen, it was Grossman, it was NFL prospect after NFL prospect, and it was the circle game on the calendar, hitting a final high pitch in 2001, when Tennessee came into Gainesville a massive underdog to a Florida team in the position to play for the SEC title and a national championship, and came out a shocking winner. Since then the battle has gone into a freefall.

Both programs struggled in 2002, and then Ron Zook happened, and then a 5-6 2005 season happened at Tennessee, and since then the showdown hasn't held the same luster. With the Vols hitting a rough patch, they've lost eight straight in the series and the last six by double digits. Unfortunately, thanks to last week's Yahoo! report, things might get a bit worse before they improve for Tennessee football, but on the field, there can't be much of a lower point than getting pasted by Oregon last week 59-14.

The Ducks are really, really good – BCS championship-level good – but the trip to Eugene showed Tennessee just how far it really is from being back among the superpowers. This is a program that took a back seat to no one just over a decade ago, but Butch Jones is a talented and energetic young head coach with the upside to make everything right. First, stopping the slide against the Gators, and putting the Oregon game in the rearview mirror, would be nice.

Florida has had to sit and chill on its ugly 21-16 gag to Miami for the last two weeks. The Gators thoroughly outplayed the Hurricanes, but they couldn't stop giving the ball away, and now the program that was one of the pleasant surprises of 2012 has lost two of its last three games. With Kentucky and Arkansas up next, there's a chance to go on a nice run before going away from The Swamp to face LSU, Missouri and Georgia, and with South Carolina and Florida State still to deal with, there can't be any slips against a team like Tennessee.

Why Tennessee Might Win: Turnovers. The Gator defense stopped Miami dead-cold after the first quarter, and the offense moved well enough to get in position time and again to come up with points in key situations, but Jeff Driskel came up with giveaway after giveaway with three lost fumbles and two picks. Throw in the ten penalties, and Florida shot itself in the foot. WKU is giving it up in bunches to anyone who wants to take it, but Tennessee's defense did a nice job with five picks against the Hilltoppers and seven interceptions in the first three games. The Vols are third in the nation in fewest penalties with just six, while Florida has committed 20 sins in the first two games.

Why Florida Might Win: Yeah, the Florida defense really is that good. It's not allowing a thing on the ground – giving up just 100 yards total so far – and it's brilliant when it comes time to get off the field. Miami converted just 1-of-11 third down chances, and Tennessee, considering its mess at quarterback, isn't likely to go on too many long, sustained drives. Florida has to do everything it did against the Hurricanes, except turn the ball over. Use the power running game, convert third downs, rely on the tough defense, go home.

Who To Watch Out For: And then there's the Tennessee quarterback situation. Is Justin Worley going to get another chance? Is it Nathan Peterman's time? Will Riley Ferguson and/or Joshua Dobbs get their chances? Worley hasn't gotten many breaks, with a banged up receiving corps, he was just fine early in, hitting 11-of-13 passes against Austin Peay and connecting on a decent 11-of-19 throws against WKU. However, the Oregon game threw everything for a loop – it wasn't his fault the Vols lost. If he struggles, though, Peterman will be at the ready.

- Get ready for a big day from Florida RB Matt Jones. The two weeks off was a big, big help for Jones and a slew of other ailing Gators, but now he's back and healthy after suffering a viral infection this offseason. He played against Miami, but he only ran for 47 yards on 18 carries, and he failed to show any sort of burst. Expect him to break out.
- Ground and pound. With a healthy Jones, watch for Florida to dominate the time of possession. No. 1 in the nation, holding the ball for almost 40 minutes per game, the Gator offense should be able to control the line of scrimmage. Oregon was able to do whatever it wanted up front, and Florida, with more power, should be able to do the same.
- It's time for a really, really big game from Tennessee all-star linebacker, A.J. Johnson. While he's been fine so far, he hasn't come up with a disruptive all-around performance, and despite the seven tackles last week, he disappeared too much against Oregon.

What Will Happen: Florida will look like it's supposed to. The power running game will control the game throughout, while the defense will make Butch Jones bring out the quick hook at quarterback. It won't matter.
Prediction: Florida 34 … Tennessee 10
Line: Florida -17 o/u: 47.5
Must See Rating: (5 The Presidents' Gatekeepers – 1 Million Second Quiz) … 3