UF vs. UT prediction time

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Predicting a wild shootout in The Swamp makes perfect sense. Florida is
young and struggling on defense and Tennessee is also having problems
slowing teams down, while both offenses have been rolling.

I can’t remember the last time UT and UF came into this game on such shaky ground defensively. It’s an uneasy feeling going into any game with a questionable defense. It’s downright uncomfortable in a rivalry game that means so much to both teams.

You have to figure one defense will step up and play its best game of the season and help its team to a victory. I have a feeling it’s going to be the Florida defense.

Before the offense starting throwing up all over itself in the third quarter against Troy, the UF defense had played solid and it appeared a lot of the younger players were starting to play faster and with confidence. Then the bottom fell out in the third quarter.

Several veteran defensive players have quietly said this week that the defense is getting closer to where it needs to be to be successful in the SEC and in this game. The concerns are the same as they’ve been in the first two games ” the lack of an inside pass rush and inexperience at the cornerback positions.

If the Gators don’t put some pressure on Erik Ainge, he’ll pick them apart with the short passing game. I’m guessing UF is going to come after him with some blitz packages the Gators didn’t show in the first two games. That, of course, means the Gators will have to play some man-to-man coverage in the secondary.

Offensively, the Gators expect to have some success against a very young UT secondary that has struggled to defend the pass. Even without starting wide receiver Andre Caldwell, the Gators have enough speed and talent at the receiver positions to create some mismatches in the passing game. If Kestahn Moore has some success on the ground, that will really open things up for Tebow and the other skill players.

Special teams also will be a huge factor today. Brandon James took a punt return 89 yards for a TD against the Vols last year, but the score was called back by a penalty. He nearly broke one again later in the game. He’s capable of producing a game-changing play in the return game. UF also has a history of blocking kicks under Urban Meyer, so the Gators have a chance to make something happen in special teams.

Florida has not lost at home game or a rivalry game (UT, FSU, Georgia) under Meyer and both streaks will be on the line in The Swamp. Until the Gators lose one of these games, it’s hard to pick against them.

Prediction: Florida 38, Tennessee 35