We go an old fashioned SEC Rivalry happening again today as the Florida Gators take their show on the road Saturday for the first time this season, traveling to Knoxville to take on the Tennessee Volunteers. Lately, this rivalry has been a one-sided affair, as Florida has won 11 straight games in this rivalry, with the last two being close calls, some saying Tennessee choked both games away. Here are three things to watch for today’s game.
1. Austin Appleby’s Performance Will Go A Long Way For Florida
He won’t lose the game for the Gators, and because of that, they’ll be able to win. Appleby is turnover prone and has the arm strength to take chances with his throws, but sometimes that can backfire. The Florida staff will have a smart, simple game plan to keep him from making mistakes. However, there will be that one play where a spark may need to happen, and you know the Gator fans will be holding their collective breaths when it does.
2. Can Florida’s Defense Contain The Tennessee Running Game?
Last year, Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs and running back Jalen Hurd ran wild against Florida (254 combined yards), that set up a couple of trick played in the passing game for the Vols. With the way the front seven it set this year, Tennessee may have a hard time opening holes, and force Dobbs to win the game with his arm. Dobbs e didn’t hurt them with his arm (83 yards) last year and hadn’t been great throwing the ball this season. It may be a long day for Tennessee if the running game isn’t working.
3. Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers
With a tight game expected in Knoxville, turnovers could play a huge role in determining the winner of this critical SEC East showdown. Both teams have been on the positive side of the turnover margin so far, as Florida has a plus-three margin and Tennessee checks in at plus-two. However, the Volunteers have been incredibly fortunate in this area. Tennessee has recovered five of seven fumbles by its opponents this year, which is a lucky 71 percent recovery rate. Additionally, the Volunteers have lost only one fumble so far.
The fortunate bounces won’t last all season, so there will be some regression here for Tennessee. In every matchup against the Gators since 2008, the Volunteers have either recorded a negative or even turnover mark. That has to change on Saturday if Tennessee wants to end its losing streak.