Co-written by David Bradford
This weeks Rocky Topics sports writers Shawn Finchum and David Bradford will Debate if Tennessee will beat Florida this Weekend and end the ten year losing streak to the Gators.
Finchum: This game is one big mental hurdle for the Vols whenever they play the Gators, it seems even when the Vols have the better team the Gators find a way to win the game , while the Vols find a way to lose it . Until Tennessee finally can jump over that mental hurdle of beating Florida , then maybe I would pick the Vols in this one but for now its a No.
Bradford: I do agree that the Vols have to close out games, especially against prominent opponents. They didn’t do it against Florida last year and they didn’t do it a couple of weeks ago against Oklahoma. However, the Vols have the perfect player to get over the mental hurdle and that is Jalen Hurd. If the Vols focus on what they do best, which is running the ball, they give themselves a chance. Last year, Hurd had only ten carries for 39 yards against the Gators. If they get him going, the Gators could be in for a long day.
Finchum: That’s a fair point. However, Florida’s defense is the strongest part of their team. They will stack eight or nine guys in the box, forcing Tennessee to throw the ball and there are still some concerns with Josh Dobbs’ accuracy. Also, Florida’s secondary, led by Vernon Hargreaves III, will cause problems for not only Dobbs, but also for UT’s wide receivers. Tennessee’s receivers still struggle with press coverage and being jammed at the line. That’s where Florida can take advantage.
Bradford: The Vols’ receivers will have a long day against that secondary, but Florida’s rush defense is unproven up to this point. Even if they were to stack eight in the box, they have yet to face a rushing attack like the one the Vols present. Going into this game, the Vols are No. 17 in the nation in rushing yards per game. Compare that to Florida’s opponents this season in New Mexico State, East Carolina and Kentucky, who have all ranked worse than No. 85 in rushing yards per game this season. Also, the Gators have problems with their offense, as they are not set at the quarterback position and have a first-year head coach. In rivalries such as this, you usually throw out the records, but the Vols haven’t defeated Florida since 2004 and this year they have as good as a chance as ever to beat the Gators. I feel this game means more to them than it would to Florida.
Finchum: Those rushing rankings are nice, but two of the three teams they played, Bowling Green and Western Carolina, are about the same as Florida playing ECU and New Mexico State. As for Florida’s quarterback situation, Will Grier is a freshman for the Gators entering his first SEC game. He has done some good work in his first three games for the Gators. Florida’s last three first-year coaches won their first game vs. the Vols so that first-year thing has no bearing on them. Plus, Butch Jones isn’t that great in big games. He gets tight and so do his players. That could happen again on Saturday.
Bradford: Those coaches for Florida also weren’t facing the same team that the Gators are facing now. Last year, the Vols lost to the Sooners, 34-10, but took them to double overtime. While they still lost, they can learn a lot from that game, especially the first three quarters. The Vols will put up more than nine points and their defense doesn’t face the same challenge they did against Bowling Green or Oklahoma. Florida is No. 66 in third down conversions and No. 67 in offensive efficiency. The Vols rank No. 24 in defensive efficiency and have faced two of the top-20 offensive efficient teams in the country in Bowling Green and Oklahoma. Florida also has one of the statistically worst special teams units in the country. There are too many holes on Florida’s offense and special teams, and the Vols have improved on offense and feature a solid defense. The Vols have waited ten long years to beat Florida, and they will finally accomplish it Saturday afternoon.
Finchum: In the Tennessee vs. Florida game you can throw stats, records and everything else out the window. The fact is that for the better part of a decade the Florida Gators have had some mental edge over the Vols that they still haven’t been able to get over. Until they do, the Gators will continue to win and Vol fans will be left asking again: Will we ever beat them again?
Featured image by Tennessee Journalist
Edited by Cody McClure