The Picks: Have Vols played better recently in series?

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Florida linebacker Vosean Joseph grabs Tennessee running back John Kelly during the second half of the Sept. 16, 210 game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The Gators won, 26-20. [Alan Youngblood/Gainesville Sun]

Another week, another attempt to distract you from my record.

Hey, let’s talk about the SEC schedule for 2019 that came out Tuesday, which probably knocked out any hope Florida fans had of next year being the year things turn around.

Any schedule where you open and close with Miami and FSU and play Auburn and LSU in back-to-back weeks is less than ideal. We knew these were the teams Florida would be playing, but that Tiger double-dip in October is brutal.

But what really stood out to me was something that football writer Matt Smith Tweeted — “Between 2008 and 2030, Auburn will play one game at Florida. That’s not a conference.”

I couldn’t agree more. Auburn is the closest SEC city to Gainesville. It was once a great rivalry. Now, Auburn might as well be BYU.

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey received a lot of questions about this at SEC Media Days. If the SEC went to nine conference games, as Nick Saban has been asking for, it would be better for the fans and the game.

Sankey’s answer was basically this — “We had two teams playing for the national title last year. That’s happened twice to our conference and no other conference, capiche? And we have won nine of the last 12 national championships. You think we’re going to change our formula? Get outta heah. It Just Means More Rings, baby.”

I may have paraphrased just a tad there and taken some liberties and Sankey doesn’t talk like Kojak (dated TV reference). But it is the essence of the way the league feels. If it isn’t broken, play McNeese State.

The only way I think we’ll ever get to a nine-game SEC schedule is if the College Football Playoffs expand. I hope to be alive when they do, but I’ll probably be blowing out 100 candles.

On to this week. Dr. Football was mediocre again at 7-3 for 20-10 this season. The Picks seems to be copying Florida’s offensive line play.

FLORIDA AT TENNESSEE: You could make an argument Tennessee has been better than Florida the last three years. I’m not saying you’d win that argument, but you could make it. Who would have thought as we watched Tyrie Cleveland cradling that football in the end zone last year that Butch Jones had seven games remaining as a head coach and Jim McElwain five? Or that they’d be coaching at Alabama and Michigan, respectively, this year? If you knew that then, you should be doing The Picks. Tennessee, 20-14.

GEORGIA AT MISSOURI: OK, you can stop sending me emails and texts about picking Tennessee. I just think Florida will struggle on the road, especially offensively. Lighten up. Oh, and … Georgia, 42-24.

TEXAS A&M AT ALABAMA: There was this one time I picked Tennessee and I got so many people mad at me I ended up turning some emails over to the police. But there were no death threats. Alabama, 45-21.

MISSISSIPPI STATE AT KENTUCKY: Can we move on? This is the game I’ll have on my laptop. This is the kind of game for which the word slobber-knocker was invented. What do you mean that’s not a real word? I hear it on TV all the time. Mississippi State, 28-21.

SOUTH CAROLINA AT VANDERBILT: This is usually about the time of the season when Vandy’s aspirations get a wake-up call. Not this year. Vandy, 27-19.

ARKANSAS AT AUBURN: We know who the worst team in the SEC is. So even though the Tigers are hurting from last week’s loss, they shouldn’t have any trouble with the Piglets. By the way, I can’t remember a line jumping six points like this one did. Guess which way. Auburn, 38-12.

STANFORD AT OREGON: Nationally, this is the game of the week. But that’s based on Oregon being 3-0. And Oregon being 3-0 is based on the Ducks playing Bowling Green, Portland State and San Jose State (combined record 2-7). Stanford, 31-10.

TEXAS TECH AT OKLAHOMA STATE: Wee, doggies, this one is fixin ta be a humdinger. If you like offense. If you like defense, avert your eyes. Oklahoma State, 57-51.

WISCONSIN AT IOWA: This one lost a little pizzazz with Wisky’s loss last week. I think we may have overrated Bucky Badger. Iowa, 31-23.

NORTHERN ILLINOIS AT FSU: Crowd estimation? Anyone? FSU, reluctantly, 24-21.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

36 COMMENTS

  1. Balderdash! Gators get by, 27-21. Special teams unit is special again, Franks throws for two, we run for another, two McPherson field goals. Dameon Pierce becomes our most productive back and more than the Vols’ defensive front can handle.

    • Clyde. You better hope Florida runs for a bunch of TDs and Franks throws the ball very little in this game. Rushing yards on both sides will likely determine this game, along with Florida’s secondary preventing big passing plays on play action. And Florida will again need its special teams to be special. Florida 31, Vols 21.

      • Tampa. I hear ya man. The Vols starting qb does have a good arm and can throw deep and you’re right that UF’s secondary could get burned if they don’t keep tight coverage. Hopefully he will be under pressure a lot of the time.
        I think Florida’s offense will be able to move the ball on the ground and in the air against their defense, if Franks will do his part reading and reacting to what the defense gives him.
        I’d like to see some slants. And I hope Perine hears his number called a lot. This team will be pretty good when Franks masters the new system and executes the game plan. It’s a lot of pressure on a young man, but it’s his job to read and react and get the ball in the right hands. Get the offense in a rythym with all pistons hitting. It’s Franks’ offense to lead and I hope he does. Love to silence Rocky Top.

  2. Pat, I am on the fence about the UT game. At times this week I’ve tended to agree with you and predict a close UT victory. Even living here in Knoxville, I still don’t get a sense of what kind of team UT has (playing ETSU and UTEP back to back will do that). I do have a sense of what the Gators have and based on the Kentucky game there is no way I’d pick the Gators this week. That said, I saw enough good things last week, especially on defense, to make me think that with constant improvement, the Gators might have what it takes tomorrow. Who the heck knows.

    One other thing Pat…..I think even with Drew Lock, there is no way Mizzou scores 24 on UGA.

  3. Based on game performances to date, Florida has a chance to win three more games this year (Tennessee, Idaho, and FSU). Lose the game this weekend and I am not sure Florida can beat another team other than Idaho, and that would also be a maybe with a big point differential loss to Tennessee. Huge must win game for the Florida program and Mullen, no matter what Mullen says. A good win and Florida goes into the MSU game with a lot to play for. Fingers crossed.

    • This outlook seems to assume that the Gators will not improve over the season. Before the season began, Mullen said that the team would not be as good early in the season as he expects it to be later in the season. To me, this suggests that fans should try to avoid putting too much emphasis on one game at this point in the season. More telling will be whether the Gators play better than they have in prior games. If so, my perspective is that Mullen is doing what he wanted and needs to do.

  4. Gotta be an optimist. I know the o line hasn’t shown it, but I have to believe having Heggie back will help. Also, more experience in a new system will help. Franks is Franks, but he has shown some improvement. Pierce playing this week could be a real game changer for the offense. I say the defense steps up and the Gators win a solid if unspectacular victory. Gators win 24-14.

    • Reese should be a game changer for the defense as well. Pat obviously has no faith in that side of the ball if he thinks Tenn is going to score 20. This is a team who could only score 24 pts against a winless UTEP team that had 52 dropped on them by UNLV.

      • I hear ya, Joe, but I made the mistake of thinking Terry Wilson and UK couldn’t beat the Gators in Gainesville based on their lackluster win over Central Michigan. That was obviously a mistake on my part. I understand, though, that UK is ( I think ) much better than UT, so I’m hopeful that you’re correct. Go Gators!

  5. In a horse race, the jockey can make or ruin a thoroughbred’s chances to win. If Franks has a decent game, the Gators appear overall to have the better offensive talent. He will have to find open targets to prevent UT from crowding the line. In all SEC games, a balanced attack is a must. It’s hard to know how good the Vols’ defense actually is, because it hasn’t really been tested. A shutout is always impressive, but it was against winless UTEP. The Gators often get poor treatment from the officials when traveling to Leyland. They usually have to beat them too. This game has a lot of unknowns, but the Gators have more to prove after the loss to the Cats UF 21-10.

  6. I’m not predicting who wins / loses or any score. To me, the big question for this game will be the play and impact of David Reese on defense as I think that will go a long way towards determining the rest of the season. If Reese plays well and the “D” still gets torched, it will probably be a tougher road ahead than even the most pessimistic bunch think and they will camp out here for the rest of the season. IF the “D” responds strongly to the presence of Reese in the middle with improved play against the run and a strong push from the line, then I believe this is a game they can win (not saying will) and the outlook for the rest of the season may be brighter. With an offense that will be a work in progress well into the season, the defense will need to keep the Vols, (and everyone else on the schedule) in check, and our special teams could provide the difference between win/lose the rest of the way. Will be interesting to see.

  7. Totally disagree with the urgency of a win in this game. This is a team dealing with a big learning curve with new systems on both offense and defense. They are making progress. I can’t lose sight of the fact that despite being dominated by Kentucky, a victory was still very possible in the late stages of the game. So, while a victory would be great, progress is paramount. We have other winnable games other than those mentioned, Vandy and South Carolina come to mind, as long as we continue to make progress. Then, we also may have the ability to come up with a surprise, or two.

  8. Look I watched ETSU penetrate and hold Tennessee to precious little offense in the first half of that game they disrupted early and often. Then turnover bugs and much larger more athletic Tennessee players wore them down. UTEP same thing. One more thing both ETSU and UTEP moved the ball equal to Tennessee till they wore out and stymied in the red zone.

    Tennessee Is bad. Not just a little bad but visceral gut pile BAD. you will see It has been ugly to watch though of course I have enjoyed it.

  9. Pat: When the division schedule initially started, I always felt our SEC football schedule would have been better taking the Auburn Tigers verse LSU for a permanent west opponent. Your right, Auburn is closer and was just as much a rival as LSU.

  10. I think it will be a close game but I do not have a good feeling about the game. Franks could improve and be accurate in the game. The run defense could fill the gaps and play well. The secondary could avoid giving up big plays and special teams could continue to be special. All of these areas could improve slightly from game to game. Florida’s skill players are significantly better. The issue for me is the offensive line. They are “veterans” and they have not improved over four years. They aren’t good and they have reached their ceiling. They all can’t seem to play as a unit and they miss way too many assignments. Our “stable of running backs” are making their first move 7 yards in the backfield. Mullen had to give up on the run against Kentucky because, hey, you don’t lose any yards with an incomplete pass. Our improved receivers can’t get open because we have to keep everyone in to block. When we do run the TE, Franks gets too much pressure or the TE drops a pass. If we can put together a running game against Tennessee, we win. If we can give Franks time, we win. But I don’t see either one of those things happening on a consistent basis with this line.

  11. UF is saddled with a QB that looks like a NFL QB…great height (6′ 6″), strong arm, athletic and just looks the part…in reality he is a below average to average QB … at this point in his development …he is a QB that is just not consistent, he can’t seem to locate open receivers, he takes too long to throw the ball, he back peddles in the pocket or runs to the sidelines … he is certainly a QB that can, in any game, get his team beat by throwing interceptions or fumbling the ball at critical times and situations…he has a hard time making 3rd down conversions, which is essential in winning ball games…he’s just not accurate and will only complete 50 %+- of his passes most games … with that said…he has improved from last year by a great deal…but he is still making the same mistakes…but, he can beat any team he plays, if he has a good game, making good decisions and limits his mistakes…the problem is, you never know which Franks is going to show up…he will loses games we are suppose to win and then win games we are suppose to lose… It’s going to be a frustrating season with Franks …It is going to take at least a this year and next for him to develop… I do trust Mullen and his staff…But, I personally think it would take less time to develop Trask…Trask has a better vision of the field than Franks and throws a more accurate and catchable ball than Franks from what I’ve seen in practice …but, Franks sure looks the part…which, to me is the only reason he is starting over Trask.

    I disagree with Dooley and most of the comments on this site about our offensive line…they have done a very good job so far in pass protection…last year FRANKS was getting sacked 3-4 times a game…because he would sprint out pocket, towards the sidelines and either get sacked or run out of bounds for a loss…or back peddle past his blocking… and this year just about every time he has sprinted out of the pocket or back peddled… he has thrown an incomplete pass… or just plain missed seeing an open RW …he made the OL look worse than it really was. UF does have talent on the OL…I don’t care what anybody says…and as far as, the OL run blocking…I blame a lot on Scarlett technique of running into the line…Perine and M. Davis along with Pierce are different type of runners and are averaging well over 5 yds per carry…

    If UF played Kentucky 5 times… UF would win 4 of them…The defensive line lost that game…too many young linebackers without experience on the field…younger guys will tend to play back a little too much…
    an experienced Reese should really help these young LB’s this week…UF should get better each week…as confidence grows with these young LB’s.

    UF does have more talent than UT and if Franks can limit his mistakes, which, I do think he will…once he settles down… UF should win this game by 20 points or so… PREDICTION : UF 42 UT 17

  12. Especially because the game is in Neyland I fully expect to have Rocky Top stuck in my head for the next two days. It’s a foregone conclusion and can only be combatted by watching the game in mute with closed captions. However, the outcome of the game will determine the effective torture level it will have on my psyche. We win, and I’m probably singing it out loud while mowing the lawn on Sunday and in the shower. We lose, and I’m jabbing ice picks into my ear drums to get the noise out.

  13. Vol Fan here with honest opinion:

    Gators and Vols OLines both suck. It will be interesting to see how coaches plan around that.

    Vols rbs and receivers are very good and Guarantano, our QB, will have his coming out game, I think. I hope we don’t blitz Franks except on passing downs. Better to lay off and force him to make decisions, which does not look to be his strong point

    I expect crowd to be factor in Vols win. However, big game changing plays are often difference in this series so Gators could very well win, especially if they win turnover battle or make big plays on special teams.

  14. Pat picks against Florida more than he picks ’em. Weak attempt to show his unbias.
    Auburn should be in the East. Period! Tennessee would love to see ‘Bama vs Auburn, instead of them every year. Mizzou goes in the West. For Pete’s sake, St. Louis Arch is the “GATEWAY TO THE WEST.” Period! Gators’ Special Teams loosen it up for Gator ‘O’, and Florida wins. Period! Chomp-chomp!

  15. So… Tennessee defense has zero tackles for loss. Five big plays on offense of more than 50 yards—four against mighty East Tennessee State University and an 80-yard play against UTEP. Are you impressed?

    The only games that should be used for comparing Tennessee and Florida this young season are the Vols’ loss to a very good West Virginia outfit and Florida’s defeat by Kentucky.
    Even then the sample size for both the Vols and Gators is awfully small.

    I give Florida an edge in some critical areas: 1) pass protection; 2) quarterback mobility and arm strength; 3) depth and spread of receiver talent; 4) pass rush from the edge (Zuniga, Polite, Jefferson), which will aid our secondary. A big key for Florida will be how our D-line performs against UT’s running game. To me that’s been the most underwhelming part of Florida’s performances to date.

    The Gators figure to improve if David Reese is on the field and healthy. Shaun Davis’ addition to the mix at safety should be seen as a positive, as well. As for Franks, when he faced Kentucky the young Gator quarterback was up against a secondary with all six of last year’s top corners and safeties back, led by senior All-SEC caliber safety Mike Edwards. The Wildcats’ corners are not only seasoned but exceptionally tall, providing some unusual challenges. How does Tennessee’s secondary shape up in comparison with Kentucky’s?

    Against ETSU and UTEP the Vols struggled to break away until their far below SEC quality opponents wore down. Florida dominated both its comparable opponents so long as Mullen and Grantham stuck primarily with their ones and twos, though it should be remembered that it took too long for the offense to get going against Colorado State.

    Finally there’s a coaching comparison. Mullen or Pruitt? If Jeremy Pruitt is a superior head coach to Dan Mullen, then how stupid is Scott Stricklin for hiring Dan? No, I believe our head coach us one of the SEC’s best and that as his young team matures we’ll all see the good results. Remember that these Gators have only three seniors on the defensive depth chart, six on offense and three of those are stacked at tight end. Our future shines brightly.