Florida at Tennessee Pregame Notebook: Coaching hot seat

Special to Gatorsports.com
In this 2018 photo, Florida defensive end Zachary Carter takes the field before the game against the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville, Tennessee.

No. 6 Florida (7-1 SEC, No. 6 CFP) at Tennessee (2-5), today at 3:30 p.m. (CBS).

One of the storylines entering today's 3:30 p.m. game at Neyland Stadium is the status of Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt.

The Volunteers have lost five straight overall raising the heat on Pruitt, the third-year coach.

Snapping a three-game losing streak against the rival Gators would salvage a lost season, but it seems unlikely. Pruitt got a contract extension before the season so the chances he might be let go are probably not great.

But the Vols (2-5) are staring at 3-7 season with Florida, Texas A&M and maybe a make-up game against Vanderbilt on the schedule.

The race for the Heisman Trophy is another storyline.

Quarterbacks usually dominate the Heisman watch lists these days, but this season it looks as if it will be especially difficult for a non-QB to breakthrough.

From Alabama's Mac Jones and Florida's Kyle Trask at the top of the leader boards to BYU's Wilson and Notre Dame's Ian Book a little farther down and Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State's Justin Fields in between.

How about a little love for they guys who catch and carry the ball.

Iowa State's Breece Hall is first in the nation in rushing (140 yards per game) among players with at least eight games played, carrying the 12th-ranked Cyclones to the cusp of a Big 12 title game appearance. Iowa State hosts West Virginia on Saturday.

Trask's favorite target, tight end Kyle Pitts, returned last week for the sixth-ranked Gators and caught three more touchdown passes against Kentucky. He now has 11 in six games played. Florida faces Tennessee.

Then there is Jones' top receiver, DeVonta Smith. The senior has 72 catches for 1,072 yards and 12 scores. The Crimson Tide plays at LSU.

Line: Florida by 17 1/2.

Series record: Florida leads 29-20.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Florida can clinch the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division along with a spot in the league championship game Dec. 19. They also need a strong finish to move up in the College Football Playoff rankings. Tennessee is trying to avoid the program's longest skid since 1988 when the Vols lost the first six games to start that season.

KEY MATCHUP

The Gators' high-powered offense against the Tennessee defense. Florida is second in the nation averaging 369.6 yards passing per game, and the Volunteers are 79th nationally allowing 243.6 yards per game. Tennessee also is giving up 31.3 points per game.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Florida: The Kyle-to-Kyle connection has been downright unstoppable this season. Heisman Trophy front-runner Kyle Trask has found star tight end Kyle Pitts for 11 touchdowns in 5 1/2 games. They developed their chemistry on the scout team three years ago and have climbed the depth chart together since.

Tennessee: RB Eric Gray. The sophomore ranks fourth in the SEC rushing for 93 yards a game, and he just posted his first back-to-back 100-yard rushing games. He's the first to do that in consecutive SEC games since Joshua Dobbs in 2016.

FAST STARTS

The Gators have scored on their opening possession in seven of eight games this season. Six touchdowns and a field goal, to be exact. They have first-drive TDs in each of their last three games, a streak they hope to continue in Knoxville.

FACTS & FIGURES

The Gators have won 14 of the last 15 meetings, including three in a row. Florida LB James Houston may have summed up his team’s recent run best, saying, “I personally never really played a Tennessee team that was too competitive against us.” ... Dan Mullen is unbeaten in seven games against Tennessee, going 4-0 as Florida’s offensive coordinator (2005-08), winning his only game against the Vols while at Mississippi State (2012) and bringing a two-game streak into Knoxville as Florida’s head coach. ... These teams played in September the past 18 straight years, and this will be the first December game in the series since 2001 when that game was postponed by 9/11. ... Four of the last six games were decided by 10 points or less. Florida has won the last two by double-digits. ... Tennessee will play its first game at Neyland Stadium in 42 days. ... Capacity will be at approximately 25%, and 23,394 attended the Alabama-Tennessee game in October. ... Tennessee dismissed outside linebacker Kivon Bennett from the team Tuesday hours after he was arrested.

The Associated Press contributed to this report