Saturday, September 15, 2012

How And Why The Florida Gators Can Beat The Tennessee Volunteers

First, if Tyler Bray does this at all on Saturday night versus the Gators, I'm probably throwing a beer glass through my TV. With that out of the way here's why I'm optimistic that Florida can escape Knoxville with a win.

Florida Runs the Ball Better
If you've seen any of the recent Florida vs Tennessee games, then you've heard the stat that the team with the most rushing yards wins. I won't break down past rushing numbers, but looking each team's performance against their toughest opponent of 2012 I am confident that Florida is the better rushing team.

Comparing Florida's game versus Texas A&M to Tennessee's game versus N.C. State I noticed that Florida didn't have as many negative rushing plays. Shocking, I know. Here's the breakdown:

*Tennessee had 35 rushes(doesn't include QB scrambles, does include end arounds)
*Of those 35, 13 went for negative yards or no gain, 37%
*Seven were for 0-4 yards, 20%
*13 went for 5-9 yards, 37%
*Two were for 10+ yards, 6%

*Florida had 32 rushes(doesn't include QB scrambles, does include end arounds)
*Of those 32, seven went for negative yards or no gain, 22%
*14 were for 0-4 yards, 44%
*Six went for 5-9 yards, 19%
*Five were for 10+ yards, 15%

As you can see, not only did Florida have fewer rushing plays for negative or no gain, but they also had more for 10 yards or more. Tennessee did bust off two long runs against N.C. State, but Florida consistently ran the ball well against Texas A&M. If they can find that same consistency against the Vols, they will win the game.

The Middle of the Field is Open
One thing that really stood out to me in the Tennessee/N.C. State game is how open the middle of the field was for the Wolfpack on offense. Especially when the Volunteers sent blitzes right up the middle. Consequently, two tight ends were the #2 and #3 leading receivers for N.C. State. Asa Watson and Mario Carter both found space to catch and run against Tennessee, and neither one is as athletic as Jordan Reed. Plus, I expect to see Kent Taylor on the field for at least a few snaps. Florida will almost certainly get good production up the middle of the field against the Vols if their running backs are able to pick up blitzes.

Jeff Driskel Will Not Be a Turnover Machine
I'm not sure what happened to Mike Glennon between the end of the 2011 season and the start of 2012. He made some very bad reads against Tennessee even when he wasn't under pressure, and really forced some throws late in the game. I don't see Brent Pease asking Driskel to make throws all over the field, especially if the running game is strong, and if Florida loses it shouldn't be because Driskel is tossing interceptions.

Florida's Secondary is Tight
David Amerson became the goat of the N.C. State loss because the receivers he was covering scored long touchdowns. However, he didn't have a lot of help, and there seemed to be an awful lot of miscommunication in that defensive backfield. Florida's secondary looked pretty strong against the Aggies, particularly when they knocked away two consecutive short-yardage passes to the end zone. At the very least, all of the defensive backs appear to understand their assignments, and haven't really looked out of place on the field. They might give up some yards, but I can't see them letting a receiver get loose for a 72-yard touchdown.

Of course there are some causes for concern...

Tennessee Wide Receivers
While I do think Florida's secondary is a strength of the defensive unit, the combo of Hunter and Patterson is impressive. Justin Hunter can make plays anywhere on the field, and Cordarelle Patterson reminds me a lot of Julio Jones. He's got good hands and deceptive speed. I expect the Florida defensive backs to get tested early and often.

Blitz Pick Ups
Tennessee is going to pressure Driskel. He's probably going to see blitzes from multiple looks, and the offensive line and running backs better be prepared to pick them up. N.C. State was able to pick up most of them, and gave Glennon extra time. If Florida doesn't, then Driskel is going to have a long night.

I really think Florida has a good shot at making it eight straight against Tennessee. They should be able to run the ball a bit better, and Driskel will move the ball effectively without being asked to do all that much yet again.

Prediction: Florida 27, Tennessee 20

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