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Florida Game Preview
Happy Anxiety Week Everyone!
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016, 5:38 PM
by Josh
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I'm not going to spend much time on Ohio. It was a devastating day for no other reason than the injuries. Cam Sutton is a HUGE loss for this team. I think JRM will be back and that is very critical for this 4 game gauntlet. It would seem that we are going to get Chance Hall back as well which hopefully will give this OL a boost. They played like crap for most of the game but they still found a way to win. I think that just like the fans, the players and coaches have been holding their breath for this stupid Florida game. No one can exhale until that damn streak is broken. Despite all of that, Tennessee is 3-0 for the first time since 2004 and just the 10th time since 1974. Not only is Tennessee trying to break this streak, it's trying to become 4-0 for the first time since 2003 and just the 6th time since 1974. If Tennessee is able to get this win, it will clear its biggest mental hurdle. One that the Vols must clear if they ever have any designs on a championship of any kind.

No team has ever beaten Tennessee 12 straight times. It has never happened. Tennessee has found itself in this position only one other time in it's history. Entering the 1982 season, Alabama had beaten Tennessee 11 straight times. Just like in 1982, Tennessee has a chance to end what is now tied for its longest losing streak to another team in Neyland Stadium. In 1982 Tennessee limped into that game with Alabama with a 2-2-1 record. Alabama was ranked number 2 in the country in what would be Bear Bryant's final year with the Tide. Tennessee was still in the midst of Johnny Majors' rebuild and were still a few years away from coming out of the darkness. They would beat the number 2 ranked team in the country 35-28 to end the longest losing streak UT has ever suffered to a single team. Tennessee would go on to win the next 3 games against Alabama. This Tennessee team came out of the darkness last year. This is a very talented Tennessee team still even despite the injuries. This Tennessee team is 3-0 and ranked 14th in the country. This Tennessee team is also nearly a touchdown favorite. Their opponent isn't ranked number 2, it's ranked 19th. With all of that going for Tennessee, it should be much easier to break this 11 game losing streak than it was to break the one in 1982.

Still there has been a lot of apprehension this week. I started feeling nervous on Tuesday. That doesn't usually happen until Saturday. A lot of fans have been anxious this week, almost resigned to the fact that a loss was coming. Granted, Basilio has been very confident and many in the media have picked Tennessee to win as well. But that was the same story last year, and the year before that. Tennessee hasn't looked good this year. It could mean that they are what they are at this point. But it could also mean that everyone on the team has been holding their breath for this weekend. For the average Vol fan, it has been a torturous week. This fanbase is like Theon Greyjoy and Florida is like Ramsay Bolton. For those of you who don't know what that means, I am not going to go into rated R territory here but you can Google "Ramsay cuts Theon" and watch the video if you are curious. Tennessee fans are gun shy. They are like an abused dog. I used to look forward to this week. It was usually the first really big game of the year. Now I have come to dread it. How many times can you come into this game expecting to win only to watch your team lose every single year? The past 2 years I have watched Tennessee more or less control both games and have 2 score leads in the 4th quarter only to have the coaches get tight and blow the leads and lose by 1. If you can clearly have the best team on that day 2 years in a row and still lose, what is it going to take to get over the hump?

With Del Rio going down, Tennessee catches a break. I'm not sure it will be a big a break as we think though, especially if Calloway is healthy. Jim McElwain is a very good offensive coach. I have to give him credit. He is certainly a better coach than Butch Jones. This is going to be the game where we find out what we have in Shoop. I don't think he has shown a whole lot defensively to this point. This bodes well going against an average QB who is prone to throwing interceptions. But first and foremost they have to shut down the run. The game plan pretty much has to be to make Austin Applebee beat you. It will be very important to get pressure on him. This is going to be a money game for Derek Barnett. It will be a chance to shine for the likes of Kongbo and Tuttle. Keep Todd Kelly Jr. spying Calloway all day long. If they can execute this, or a similar game plan, then you have to like Tennessee's chances. But don't make the mistake of underestimating McElwain. The chessmatch between Shoop and McElwain will be the key to the game.

DeBord and Butch Jones have to let Josh Dobbs be Josh Dobbs. He has to be a key part of the run game. Plain and simple. If he is not, then Tennessee's offense will go nowhere. Florida is going to load the box and dare Dobbs to throw. Maybe he can hit one to Malone, maybe 2 but this isn't where the game will be won. He needs to run the zone read and make the right reads. Plain and simple. If we screw around with these stupid screen passes and try to dink and dunk them in the passing game, they will shut us down. I do think the offense has been intentionally vanilla because they were holding something back for this game. I've heard speculation that they are going to unveil an I Formation attack. I would be shocked if this were true. Butch Jones is very stubborn and he is pretty much married to his system. What have they been holding back? It's probably some exotic new screen pass. Who knows? He is about as goofy as a coach can be. To win this game, outside of a shocking I Formation debut, Tennessee will have to run the zone read effectively. Period. They must also take advantage of any opportunities the defense and special teams give them. Tennessee doesn't have to be perfect, but they can't afford to have multiple turnovers. That would be mentally devastating to this team.

I have gone back and forth on this all week. I've felt apprehensive because of the history of this game and how Tennessee has played so far. But I also look back to last year and I saw most of these same players play much better. They are capable of much more than they have shown so far. Last year I picked Florida to beat Tennessee 16-14. It was coming off the Oklahoma game and I expected Butch to choke once again and boy did he ever. This year I think you are going to see Tennessee play the best game its played all year. The crowd will be electric for sure. I'm not a fan of wearing the Smokey Gray uniforms for Florida but if the players want it, I'm okay with it. I think it may take Florida a while to get anything going with Applebee. And I think by the time they do, Tennessee will be on top. This year, the crowd will be there to get the Vols across the finish line if it's close in the 4th quarter. Tennessee ends the streak.

Tennessee 27
Florida 17

In other games...

Ole Miss 35
Georgia 24

Arkansas 31
Texas A&M 28

LSU 24
Auburn 16

Michigan State 25
Wisconsin 23

Oklahoma State 38
Baylor 35

Overall Record (10-11) Not a good year so far.

I don't like tearing down the goalposts. But I think I would be okay with it in this situation. The goalposts came down in 1982 so if Tennessee wins, it would only be fitting to repeat history. If you do rush the field and tear down the goalposts, be safe. Don't celebrate the biggest win for Tennessee in 15 years by going to the ER or dying.

That's all I have for this week. For those who want you can follow me on Twitter @Joshes_Blog

Have a safe weekend everyone. Hopefully around 6:30 or 7 Saturday, we can all exhale. Go Vols and God Bless!

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