July 14, 2024

Week four upset alert — No. 14 Tennessee

Our week four upset alert has a familiar ring to it. Can the Vols avoid being upset in a 12th-consecutive loss to Florida?

Tennessee defensive lineman Kendal Vickers fights through a block to hurry an Ohio Pass on Sept. 17, 2016.

Only three weeks into the 2016 season, and there have already been upsets all over the SEC. South Alabama over Mississippi State, Southern Mississippi over Kentucky and Wisconsin over LSU all happened in week one. While things have settled down a bit since then, there are still a few games that SEC fans need to watch out for.

The team that is sitting on the hottest seat coming into week four is none other than the Tennessee Volunteers.

College Game Day is in Knoxville for the game that will likely decide who goes to Atlanta from the SEC East.

Tennessee opened the week as an 8.5 point favorite over Florida, but the line has slowly slid down as the week has gone on. Both teams will be without key players. Tennessee will be missing senior cornerback and team captain Cam Sutton along with sophomore linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. Florida will be without starting quarterback Luke Del Rio and star receiver Antonio Calloway will likely not be 100 percent.

Before we dive into some numbers that might give Tennessee fans concerns, we should address the fact that, for the superstitious fan at least, everything happening around this game will likely lead to a Tennessee loss.

As mentioned earlier, College Game Day is in town. Tennessee has not won a game with Game Day in town since 1999. Lee Corso picked the Gators (he is 7-3 picking against the Vols, 13-5 picking Florida, and the list goes on). Fear not Vol fans, the superstitions only grow from here.

Fans voted to make this game the Checker Neyland game in 2016, a tradition in which fans wear color coded shirts to create a checkerboard effect in Neyland Stadium. The first time Tennessee tried Checker Neyland in 2014, the visual outcome was unbelievable, but the Vols lost 10-9 to (guess who) the Florida Gators. Vol fans tried it again in 2015 against the Oklahoma Sooners, but the result was the same. Tennessee lost in double overtime, so being 0-2, Tennessee fans are skeptical about staging the event at such a big game.

However, it does not end there. In 2013, Tennessee unveiled its smokey grey alternate uniforms, and they were well received by fans. They were worn at two games that season, both of which Tennessee lost. The first was in heartbreaking fashion to Georgia, the second to instate rival Vanderbilt. Fortunately for Vol fans, that curse might have been broken last season when Tennessee rallied from a 21-point deficit to beat Georgia.

Finally, this game will be broadcasted by Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson on CBS as the SEC Game of the Week. Since 1996, Tennessee has been notoriously bad when playing in the Game of the Week. The Vols have the fifth most appearances with 61, yet are tied with Alabama (who has appeared 20 more times) for the most losses with 33. That puts the Vols at a .459 win percentage, behind teams like Pittsburgh, Navy, Miami, Notre Dame and Syracuse.

But all of that is just superstition, it might not have any effect on the game whatsoever. What will play a large role in determining the outcome of this game, however, are the offensive and defensive lines of both teams.

Through three games, Florida has the best defense in all of FBS. Through three games, the Gators are allowing a mere 4.67 points per game. Tennessee’s offense has been less than impressive so far in 2016, and saying the same about the offensive line would probably be a compliment. The front seven of Appalachian State, Virginia Tech and Ohio all got pressure on Josh Dobbs relatively easily. The offensive line needs to step it up quickly if Tennessee wants to hang with Florida.

Something to give the Vols hope, though, is many players who have been injured or had injury scares will be back in the lineup. Sophomore Chance Hall will likely see his first action of the 2016 season and will help the offensive line tremendously. Receiver Josh Smith will be back after suffering a high-ankle sprain in practice, as will All-SEC linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin who suffered an apparent left-shoulder injury against Ohio.

Still, with all these question marks around Tennessee, the biggest factor in this game boils down to one thing: will Florida perform as well as they have against a top-15 team as they did against bottom-tier FBS teams. If Florida can prove the numbers they have put up in 2016 are not just a reflection on the teams they have played, this game will be one for the ages.

Kick off is set for 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS.

Edited by Nathan Odom

Featured image by Sumner GilliamS

Matt is a sophomore journalism and electronic media major at the University of Tennessee. He enjoys watching any and all sports, and is an active member in the Pride of the Southland Marching Band. Follow him on twitter @mattraymond271