Doesn’t this week just feel right? Giddy anticipation, two top-25 teams, clashing at night in Neyland Stadium. College Gameday will be there. It’s a good week to be Vol fan. We are gonna break this one down; see who has the upper hand, position by position. Each team has played an automatic qualifier school (NC State for UT, Texas A&M for Florida), and a patsy, (Georgia State for UT, Bowling Green for UF) So I am going under the assumption that even though it’s early the schedules mean at least a little bit.
I am not going to sit here and proclaim that I know a lot about offensive line play. Shoot I have no idea how or why Zach Fulton is the highest graded Tennessee offensive lineman or that Joe Thomas is the highest graded offensive lineman in the NFL. I have no clue what to look for in such situations, so I am going to shoot you some numbers.
Florida is T-83 in Tackles for loss allowed. 91st in yards gained per game 47th in rushing yards per game.
Tennessee it T-57 in Tackles for loss allowed (and no sacks allowed), 15th in yards gained, and amazingly 42nd in rushing yards per game.
Do those number mean that Tennessee’s offensive line is superior than Florida’s? No idea, but it’s the best I’ve got so I am going to say yes.
Mike Gillislee is Florida’s leading rusher, he’s pretty darn good. He’s banged up though. Tennessee has trotted out Rajion Neal, Marlin Lane, and Devrin Young. Which one is the best? I personally feel like it’s Lane, but I would listen to an argument for Neal. Regardless, I’d trade either for Gillislee, banged up or not.
I didn’t break this down by receivers and tight ends. I am going to include everybody who is a potential target for each team. Florida’s leading receiver is tight end Jordan Reed with 8 catches for 92 yards. The Gators have one touchdown reception by Frankie Hammond. Eight different Gators have caught at least one ball.
Tennessee has two players with more catches than Reed: Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson. That should end this discussion right now. But just for show: Eleven different Volunteers have caught a pass so far, six touchdowns to just the one. Just in case you were wondering if this was just a QB comparison: I submit the following:
That’s our SECOND best receiver. Oh, and Mike Rivera is not bad either.
Edge (Major) Tennessee
Jeff Driskel eked out his job over Jacoby Brissett during the Bowling Green Game. Tyler Bray could go pro early and be a first round draft pick.
Edge (Major) Tennessee
Statistically these lines are very similar. Each team has generated four sacks in this young season. But Derek Dooley has said that both Sharrif Floyd, and Dominique Easley are forces to be reckoned with. Surely that could be coach-speak. But I just can’t see Will Muschamp making a huge deal out of Mo Couch and Darrington Sentimore.
If Curt Maggitt and Herman Lathers were both 100% I’d give this category to UT. But they’re not, and I am going to defer again to Dooley, who said the Florida front 7 is really good. I love AJ Johnson, I think he is my favorite Vol on this team. I just don’t feel strong enough about either side to give a definitive answer, so I am going to take the easy way out.
Florida just has one interception so far, and their secondary looked timid against Texas A&M red-shirt freshmen Johnny Manzell. Tennessee is tied for third in interceptions with five. Four of those came against NC State and a highly regarded senior quarterback: Mike Glennon.
Of course interceptions don’t tell the whole story, but Tennessee’s is starting to grasp Sal Sunseri’s scheme, and they are reasonably good tacklers: Especially at the safety position with Byron Moore and Brian Randolph.
Edge Florida (Ugh)
Will Muschamp has the better record, and at least before this season, he’s had more talent. Derrick Dooley has had a worse record, and at least before this season has had less talent. Neither coach reminds me of Nick Saban at the moment, and I can’t think of a legitimate reason why one coach should be elevated over the other. (Cut to Steve asking about the 13 men on the field in Baton Rouge two years ago and shaking his head.) Hey man, that was two years ago!
In position by position edges Tennessee owns a 4-2-2 lead. That’s good enough for me, and when push comes to shove in modern football, if all things are equal you go with the better quarterback. Tyler Bray > Jeff Driskel. So I am going to stick with my original prediction. Tennessee 31-23.
Go Big Orange