Tennessee vs. Florida – The choices have arrived

Tennessee are looking for their second win against the Gators in their last 18 attempts. The Vols enter Saturday’s game as double-digit favorites as the world of college football rises to Neyland Stadium and Rocky Top. Volquest staff offers their own game choices.

Brent’s choice

Josh Heupel says there are no mental hurdles for his team to overcome regarding this game. That’s okay because there are a lot of us out there who have watched this match for years who have that obstacle.

How come? Because Tennessee has lost this game in almost every conceivable way. From Gaffney’s no catch / catch in 4th and 19th and say goodbye to Mary in a 10-9 defeat to a team with no real quarterback game. Tennessee has found a way not to.

Even in 2016, the Vols had to recover from a double-digit gap at the interval because they played so badly to start the match.

Can Tennessee come out of the gates? Josh Heupel’s story is that his teams start fast. A quick start would put a lot of pressure on Florida and Anthony Richardson and send an angry fan base into a frenzy.

My guess is that Florida plays its best game of the year to date because that’s what the story says, but it’ll be enough.

The Gators are very much missing Ventrell Miller in the middle. Will the Vols take advantage with their as yet somewhat untried running game and a group of running backs that are busted.

Tennessee has been here before. The stage is ready. The world that looks. Game day in the city. They delivered and they also failed. In 2012, Derek Dooley with his high-powered attack couldn’t do it. Butch Jones mobilized in 2016 to do so.

The Vols are the best team in 2022. They are better as a quarterback, which is huge and that’s why Tennessee are favorites and everyone expects them to win.

The truth is Tennessee should win, but you know me, I have to see it to believe it.

Austin’s choice

If you’ve ever seen Men in Black 3, you might remember that there’s a character named Griffin who sees all of these different event scenarios ahead of time. It’s how Full fans feel in my opinion. They’ve all seen these different scenarios for tomorrow’s match outcome. How come? Because they’ve seen a number of different endings in this wild and insane rivalry.

Cedric Tillman will not be available tomorrow, so others will have to come forward. Bru McCoy is ideal for a larger role. Jalin Hyatt needs to keep playing well. Tennessee also need to get the ball rolling in this one just to take the pressure off Hendon Hooker. I think it also works with Hooker playing the running back himself.

The crowd has to play its part, but it’s honestly up to Tennessee to give them a reason to be there for the whole game. Florida has never been so achievable, but Tennessee has been the best team a few times over the past decade and found a way to lose.

So what scenario will take place tomorrow? I know Rob sees it as a blast. Sure I think it could be, but a win is a win.

Vol 35 Florida 27 and no one will complain if the Gators cover.

Rob’s choice

We are all aware of Tennessee’s struggles in this series. The Vols have (in) famously lost 16 of the last 17 in this series and haven’t won since 2016.

Some think there is a mental barrier for Tennessee in this series. I don’t buy it. This is a new day for Josh Heupel’s sophomore program and I don’t think Tennessee is carrying any emotional baggage into that.

Similarly, this Florida team is in their first year with a new manager only playing their fourth game with a new system. Some may disagree, but I don’t think the story matters much on Saturday.

Josh Dobbs was in the center of the Vols that day in 2016 and threw for 319 yards and four touchdowns as he ran for another 80 yards and one more score. Incidentally, that was the last time Tennessee had competent and consistent quarterback play until Hendon Hooker took office last fall.

Hooker is the difference for me in this game, regardless of who else is available on offense. Tennessee has a huge advantage over the quarterback. Yes, it will be a blow if Tillman can’t play, no way around it, but Hooker still has the guns. Whether Small is limited or out is in my opinion mostly a matter of depth as I don’t see a huge drop from him to Jaylen Wright.

In defense it’s about not driving Richardson crazy. Tennessee coaches have repeatedly talked about maintaining integrity in their running lanes and that must be a priority. Don’t let it melt and hurt it with your legs. Kentucky practically sat down and challenged Richardson to beat them with his arm and didn’t make it. This is a project that everyone in the SEC will likely follow until they make someone pay for it.

The Vols will be playing in what should be an absolutely insane atmosphere this weekend. Neyland Stadium will be a powder keg waiting to go off on Saturday afternoon. If Tennessee can give that crowd something to get excited about for early Rocky Tops, it will perform in a way that hasn’t happened in years and it could be a long day for Florida.


Eric’s Choice

This is big. When was the last time there was so much confidence in Tennessee – versus Florida? A minute has passed. In fact, only a few minutes have passed. But that’s what it was this week. Tons and tons of trust.

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. Understanding where you are in this streak (five losses and 16 out of 17), but even knowing the past doesn’t determine the future. There are new players on the bench. There are new coaches on the bench. You have two teams on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of trust.

Florida is better than the two MAC teams that Tennessee has hit this season. That’s why I feel the Pittsburgh win was so important. Vol found a way to win at the end of that game (well, I guess in overtime) when nothing was going right. He has prepared this team for days like tomorrow when things will not always go the right way.

Maybe I’m oversimplifying, but Tennessee has a good quarterback and Anthony Richardson is not a good quarterback right now. The sky is the limit for the 6-foot 6,235-pound athlete, but at the moment he is having serious issues with the forward pass and practically lacking confidence.

If Tillman can’t go, it’s a big blow. But I still like Vol with Jalin Hyatt and Bru McCoy. I’m curious to see what this fast defense looks like against a team that handles the ball well with three different defenders. Can Tennessee follow the Kentucky draft and keep Richardson in his pocket?

I think he will play better tomorrow and I think this match will turn out to be an aerial duel. It is never easy with Florida. But Tennessee is the best football team and they have the best quarterback. Let’s see if I’m a fool, come on Monday, but give me the Vols.

TENNESSEE 35, FLORIDA 27 (hello, below)

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