Tennessee Volunteers glance
No. 5 Florida (7-1) vs. Tennessee (2-5)
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tenn.
Last year: The Vols lost the opener to Georgia State and after losses to BYU and blowouts against Florida (34-3) and Georgia (43-14) it was a season on the brink for coach Jeremy Pruitt. But the schedule eventually got easier and Tennessee went on a roll by winning its last six games to finish 8-5. True, the best wins were over UAB and Indiana (in the Gator Bowl), but Pruitt could relax and look ahead.
So far in 2020: The Vols won their first two games to run the winning streak to eight straight games. Not much has gone right since. Tennessee has lost five consecutive games, all by double digits for the first time in school history. The Vols average margin of defeat in those five games is 21.0 and the most telling stat is that UT has scored 14 total points in those games. In other words, the hot seat is back.
Best offensive player: There is a good chance Eric Gray could lead the team in rushing yards and receptions, something John Kelly did in 2017. He has 651 yards rushing with four touchdowns and is averaging 4.9 yards a run. He is tied for the lead in catches with 22 for 199 yards and a score.
Best defensive player: Bryce Thompson missed the first three games last year because of legal trouble and took a while to get back into the flow of things when he returned. But he has played well on a bad defense this year. Thompson is a really solid coverage guy, and QBs mostly steer clear of him in favor of feasting on other areas of Tennessee’s secondary.
Fun fact: Florida has beaten Tennessee 14 of the last 15 times. Only four of them have been one-score games, including two of the last three in Gainesville.
Quote: “At 2-5, Tennessee has come in below even the most modest expectations for this season. Third-year coach Jeremy Pruitt’s failure to effectively recruit and develop quarterbacks remains a glaring shortcoming. Jarrett Guarantano, a Butch Jones leftover, has started every game this season despite inadequate performance. Tennessee’s offense also was underwhelming last year, but unlike last season, this defense doesn’t have standouts like Daniel Bituli, Nigel Warrior and Darrell Taylor to paper over the offensive shortcomings. If there’s any silver lining to this season, it’s Gray. He’s an emerging star.” — Blake Toppmeyer, Knoxville News-Sentinel.