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4 Keys for the Florida Gators to defeat the Tennessee Volunteers


Jim McElwain will attempt to get his second SEC win as his Florida Gators will host the Tennessee Volunteers Saturday. Last weekend, McElwain earned his first conference victory (14-9) on the road against the Kentucky Wildcats.

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Florida has won 10 straight games over Tennessee in their rivalry. Can the Gators extend their series-best streak to 11 games? Here are four things they’ll likely have to do in order to come out victorious at home in The Swamp.

1. Shut down the run 

Most of Tennessee’s offensive success this season has come on the ground. Through the first three games of the season, the Volunteers have averaged 246 rushing yards per game, which ranks 17th in the FBS.

Florida has had a lot of success stopping the run in their first three games as they have given up an average of 55.3 yards per game. The Gators have a very stout front line and some of the fastest linebackers in the nation. 

If the Gators can contain the two-headed rushing attack of Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara and force quarterback Joshua Dobbs to beat them, it could be a very long day for the Volunteers offense.

2. Run the ball

The best friend of a young and inexperienced quarterback is a good running game. This is why Kelvin Taylor and the Gators' stable of running backs need to have their best performance of the season.

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Taylor, who is most known for being on the receiving end of the McElwain tirade against East Carolina, will need to rush for more than his average of 51 yards per game. While Taylor has been inconsistent throughout his career, he has shown that he can take over a game (197 yards and two touchdowns against Georgia last season).

Florida also has Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkite, who can also help the team in the rushing department. The Volunteers defense has given up an average of 158 yards per game this season, so that’s why it is important for the Gators to establish the run.

3. Get pressure on Dobbs

Defensive back Vernon Hargraves III and the Gators' secondary receive a lot of credit for how great Florida's defense is. But Jonathan Bullard and the defensive line equally deserve some credit as well.

Last week against Kentucky, Bullard register two of the Gators’ six sacks. For his effort, he was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week. The Shelby, N.C., native also contributed five tackles, with four of them unassisted.

If Florida’s defensive line can get Dobbs uncomfortable in the pocket, that should create more opportunities for Hargraves and the rest of the Gators' secondary. 

4. Be more disciplined

In Florida's last two games, the team has committed a combined total of 19 penalties for 126 yards. McElwain has been trying to instill some discipline in the Gators, but it hasn’t happened so far.

“The type of penalties I'm getting at are very correctable,” said McElwain in his weekly Monday morning press conference. “I don't think that running into the punter — I'm still scratching my head how he did that — but it ended up not killing us.”

While those penalties haven’t killed the Gators so far, they will eventually. With a tough SEC schedule coming up, it is imperative that Florida limits the mistakes because they aren't good enough to keep overcoming multiple mental mistakes each week.

— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.