Who: Tennessee (1-2, 0-0 SEC) vs. Florida (3-0, 1-0)
Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850
Line: Florida by 14.5.
Series record: Florida leads 28-20.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Florida’s dominance in the series and its chances of being a factor in the SEC East. The Gators have won 13 of the last 14 against Tennessee and 27 of 33 since 1976.
Florida’s depleted defense
The Gators will be missing three starters on defense at the start of today’s game. Cornerback CJ Henderson is expected to miss his second game in a row with a high ankle sprain, while end Jabari Zuniga likely won’t play after spraining an ankle against Kentucky last week. Additionally, starting safety Donovan Stiner has to sit out the first half after being ejected for targeting in the second half against UK. It’s a depleted defense, one the Vols likely will target early and often in the passing game, where the Gators were vulnerable in the win over Kentucky.
Florida coach Dan Mullen won’t reveal his plan for how he’s going to use his two quarterbacks — junior Kyle Trask and redshirt freshman Emory Jones. All we know for sure is that Trask, who led the Gators on a 19-0 run in the fourth quarter in the comeback win at Kentucky last week, is going to start the game and Jones will play at some point. When Jones gets into the game and how much he plays is an unknown for the media, fans — and the Vols, who have prepared this week for both. The feeling is Mullen will split playing time with his QBs like he did with Chris Leak and Tim Tebow in 2006, Tebow’s freshman season. The Gators, of course, went on to win the national title.
The lost running game
The Gators seem to have a lot of talent and versatility in the running back room, but those four guys — Lamical Perine, in particular — have had nowhere to run so far this season. UF is 12th in the SEC in rushing, averaging just 139.7 yards a game. Last week’s effort against Kentucky was alarming. Take away wide receiver Josh Hammond’s late 76-yard TD run on a jet sweep, and the Gators rushed for a mere 74 yards. Inserting Jones at QB might help loosen things up and give the Gators some room to run. UT has been susceptible to the run at times and is 12th in the SEC in rushing defense. So, the Gators will be in search of their lost running game today.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Tennessee: Jauan Jennings has 12 receptions for 208 yards and four touchdowns this season, with most of them coming in the first two games. He has eight catches for 172 yards and a score in three games against Florida, which might be without All-SEC cornerback CJ Henderson (ankle).
Florida: QB Kyle Trask makes his first collegiate start and first since he was a high school freshman in 2012. Trask stayed in Gainesville despite the emergence of Feleipe Franks and the transfer portal. But with Franks (broken/dislocated ankle) out for the season, Trask finally gets his shot.
FACTS & FIGURES
Four of the last five meetings have been decided by 10 points or fewer. … Florida has won seven straight against Tennessee in Gainesville, but the last two were far from easy. The Gators needed a 63-yard catch-and-run from Will Grier to Antonio Callaway with 1:26 remaining to win 28-27 in 2015 and a 63-yarder from Franks to Tyrie Cleveland on the final play to win 26-20 two years ago. … Tennessee is looking for its first victory over a top-10 team since winning at 10th-ranked Georgia in 2006. … Florida will recognize its 1994 SEC championship team at the end of the first quarter. Those Gators beat the Vols 31-0 in Knoxville. … The Gators have scored 24 or more points in seven consecutive games, the first time they’ve accomplished that feat since a 24-game stretch between October 2007 and September 2009. Florida also has consecutive 300-yard passing games for the first time since 2007.
Florida hopes to get All-SEC cornerback CJ Henderson back from a sprained ankle, but the Gators will be without elusive receiver Kadarius Toney (shoulder) and maybe defensive end Jabari Zuniga (ankle). Linebacker Amari Burney also missed the last two games. Adding to the injury woes, safety Donovan Stiner is suspended for the first half because of a targeting ejection at Kentucky.
Tennessee cornerback Bryce Thompson is making the trip to Gainesville , but it’s unclear whether he will make his season debut.
Thompson, who started 10 games as a freshman last year, was arrested last month on a misdemeanor domestic assault charge and suspended from the team. He returned to practice last week.
Linebacker Jeremy Banks also is traveling. Banks intercepted two passes last week and then arrested following the game. He was stopped for making an illegal U-turn early Sunday, and officers discovered he had an active warrant for failing to appear in court on a charge of driving with a suspended license.
Tennessee wide receiver Jauan Jennings vs. the Florida secondary: Jennings was asked earlier this week how he feels about facing Florida today. His reply says it all: “I cannot wait. I cannot wait. I definitely cannot wait,” he said. He can’t wait because he and the Vols’ passing game will be going against a Florida defense that is missing its best cornerback (CJ Henderson), its most consistent safety (Donovan Stiner) and its best pass rusher (Jabari Zuniga). Henderson and Zuniga are expected to miss the game with ankle sprains, while Stiner is suspended from the first half after being ejected in the second half last week for targeting. That’s why Jennings is so eager to get at the Gators. Here’s another reason: He has a track record for producing against UF. In 2015 in Gainesville, he threw a 58-yard touchdown pass to quarterback Josh Dobbs. In 2016, he caught a 66-yard TD pass against the Gators that put UT up for good in a 38-28 victory in Knoxville. Overall against the Gators he’s caught eight passes for 172 yards and one touchdown. He’s UT’s leading receiver this season with 12 catches for 208 yards and four touchdowns. He’s averaging 17.3 yards per reception. The depleted secondary is going to have a difficult time preventing Jennings from doing damage.
• Florida’s defensive front vs. Tennessee’s offensive line. The Gators lead the Football Bowl Subdivision with 16 sacks, including 10 in the season opener against Miami. The Volunteers are starting two freshmen — left tackle Wanya Morris and right guard Darnell Wright — and could have their hands full against pass rushers Jon Greenard and Jeremiah Moon.
Today’s game questions
• How well (or poorly) will Florida quarterback Kyle Trask perform in his first start since his freshman year in high school.
• Will Emory Jones see significant playing time behind Trask, or will he just get a few selective plays to run?
• Can the Gators get anything going in the running game, or will it be more of the same?
• The Florida defense produced only one sack a week ago against Kentucky. Can the Gators amp up the pressure against UT quarterback Jarrett Guarantano?
• Can the UF defense shut down the UT ground game and make the Vols one-dimensional?
Click back Monday for Andreu’s Answers
Florida 28, Tennessee 24
(Season record: 3-0)
Mark Long of the Associated Press contributed to this report