Florida takes on the resurgent Tennessee Volunteers from Neyland Stadium in Knoxville Saturday. The game is slated for a 3:30 PM kickoff and will air live on CBS.
Here are my three keys to the game followed by a prediction:
1. Florida’s offense must get off to a quick start. Anthony Richardson has said it himself, confidence dictates play. What better way to build confidence than to strike quick and quiet the crowd?
How does Florida go about that? Obviously, a combination of the run and quick passing game are necessary. If the Gators run more of a single read offense designed to get the primary route in space, it’s much more likely to see a completed pass or at least limit the possibility of the ball being turned over. A few completed passes will open holes in the running game, like we saw against Utah.
2. Limit mistakes. While this seems targeted to the UF offense, it’s, perhaps, even more important defensively. Josh Heupel has built Tennessee into quite the offensive juggernaut. The Vols are scoring 52 points per game and are passing for nearly 400 yards a contest behind the arm of QB Hendon Hooker. If there is a blown coverage in the secondary or a missed assignment by linebacker, the result could easily be six points for UT.
Offensively, you have to trust Richardson to effectively run the gameplan. He’s said all the right things in media sessions, but he needs to come out of Knoxville with more touchdown passes than tackles (currently: tackles 2, touchdown passes 0), if the Gators are going to escape with a win.
3. Discipline, discipline, discipline. We all know the adage that the most disciplined football team wins games. With Richardson making his first true road start in front of more than 100,000 fans, discipline will be key. The Gators have utilized the clap for the snap count at home this year. Will they employ the same strategy in a hostile environment? Time will tell.
The defense will also have to play a disciplined game. Heupel’s offense will move quickly and allow very limited substitution. The defense has to be ready to go every second they are on the field or it could get ugly, quick.
Prediction: Which Gators team shows up on Saturday? The one that knocked off the No. 7 team in the Swamp just three weeks ago or the team that struggled against Kentucky and South Florida?
I expect Billy Napier to find ways to get Florida into the end zone. I just expect the Volunteers to find it more often. Florida’s defense, while much improved, so far, hasn’t seen an offense like they will see Saturday.
Tennessee 35, Florida 20