Gators look to extend their winning streak to eight games when they host the Volunteers
The Florida Gators have won their last seven consecutive games. But last weekend, the Gators' win against the Kentucky Wildcats came at a cost. Florida went into Lexington, Ky., and got the 29-21 victory but lost starting quarterback Feleipe Franks for the season due to a dislocated ankle.
Kyle Trask will start in Franks' place, but redshirt freshman Emory Jones will also take snaps in preparation for the Gators' game against the Tennessee Volunteers.
Speaking of Tennessee, the Vols got their first victory of the season against Chattanooga, 45-0, as they attempt to bounce back from their first 0-2 start since 1988. Tennessee lost its first two games of the season to Georgia State and BYU.
Florida has won 13 of the last 14 matchups with Tennessee. Last season, the Gators cruised past the Volunteers 47-21 in Knoxville.
Tennessee at Florida
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 21 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Florida -14
When Tennessee Has the Ball
Tennessee finally got its offense going against Chattanooga, as quarterback Jarrett Guarantano threw for three touchdowns and 142 yards. The Volunteers were also able to run the ball effectively last week, piling up 195 yards on the ground. They will face a significant challenge against a Gators defense that has a ton of talent on all three levels.
After its first three games, Florida leads the NCAA in total sacks with 16 on the season. However, the Gators could be without one of their best players, as Jabari Zuniga missed most of the second half against Kentucky due to a foot injury.
Florida's defense hasn't played up to expectations this season and was particularly vulnerable against Kentucky last week. The Gators defense gave up 407 yards but did record three interceptions.
The Gators could also be without cornerback CJ Henderson against the Volunteers. Henderson missed the game against Kentucky because of an ankle injury. While Henderson probably won't practice much leading up to the game against Tennessee, he could be a game-time decision.
If the Volunteers are going to come away with the upset victory, they have to be decent at converting on the key downs, and they need to maintain an edge in time of possession.
When Florida Has the Ball
During his limited snaps against Kentucky, Trask certainly gave the Gators a lift offensively, completing 9-of-13 passes for 126 yards and adding a touchdown run. Now, Trask will make his first start against a Volunteers team that has struggled in the early part of the season.
Florida head coach Dan Mullen has hinted at using both Trask and Jones against Tennessee. Trask is more of a traditional pocket passer who does have some mobility, while Jones is more of a running quarterback. Against Tennessee-Martin in Week 2, Jones rushed for a touchdown in relief duty.
Expect the Gators to use more of their rushing attack to take pressure off whoever is behind center. In its two losses to Georgia State and BYU, Tennessee gave up an average of 160 yards on the ground.
Saturday's game will come down to which team can run the football effectively and protect the quarterback. Both Tennessee and Florida have had issues with both areas this season, but the Gators likely have the edge offensively entering Week 4.
The Volunteers gave up a lot of yards rushing in their losses to Georgia State and BYU. With the inexperienced Trask under center, the Gators will likely run the ball with Lamical Perine, who has 120 yards and two touchdowns through three games.
Florida actually has the SEC’s 12th-ranked rushing offense, averaging 139.7 yards per game. But expect the Gators to exceed that number against a Tennessee team that is flawed defensively.
Prediction: Florida 37, Tennessee 24
— 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, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.