I have a strong feeling about Saturday’s game in Knoxville, and my feeling is this: This is going to be a real four-quarter struggle for the Gators and they’re going to have to come from behind in the second half to win the game.
Granted, Tennessee fell apart in the second half last week after Oregon went up-tempo on the depth-shy Vols. But I don’t think Florida’s offense is good enough to do that, at least not yet. I see John Brantley and the offense struggling again, especially early in the game in the loud, hostile environment the Gators will be facing.
I know the Gators think they can pound the ball at the Vols with their downhill running game, but UF is going to have to generate a consistent passing game or the Vols are going to gang up on the run — and the UT defense is capable of stopping the run.
Another concern is Florida’s run defense. It was very suspect last week and the Vols have a running back who can cause a lot of damage. Tailback Tauren Poole is averaging 136 yards rushing a game and he’s a very hard runner who breaks a lot of tackles.
Florida played much better in the second half a week ago against South Florida, and Brantley and the offense seem to be gaining some confidence. Some early success in Saturday’s game would be huge for Brantley. The problem is the offense has gotten off to horrific starts in the first two games, and I’m not sure that will change in this one. I see a lot of negative plays happening for the UF offense in the first quarter.
The Gators are going to face a lot of adversity early. How they handle it will go a long way toward determining the outcome of this game.
I see this one playing out a lot like the 2006 game, where the Gators had to rally in the second half to pull out a 21-20 victory.
Prediction: Florida 21, Tennessee 20.