Gator Gameday: Storylines, question marks and key matchup for Tennessee at Florida

Zach Abolverdi
Gator Sports
Florida running back Malik Davis (20) celebrates with teammates during last year's win against Tennessee at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn.

Things to watch for in Florida’s home game against Tennessee:

The Storylines

1. The rivalry games between Florida and Tennessee have often been decided by the rushing battle, and that could be the case again Saturday. This matchup pits the nation’s No. 2 rushing offense against the No. 5 rushing defense in the country. The Gators are averaging 335.7 rush yards per game, while the Vols have allowed just 54.3 rush YPG. Both units have produced vs. Power 5 opponents, with UF rushing for 245 yards against Alabama and Tennessee holding Pittsburgh to 96 yards on the ground. 

More:Gators defense looking to replicate second-quarter dominance against Alabama

2. In his first career SEC start, Florida quarterback Emory Jones accounted for more total yards (272) than Alabama’s Bryce Young (236) and rallied the Gators from a 21-3 deficit with three consecutive touchdown drives in the second half. Jones will look to build on that performance against the Vols, although he may not have the whole game to himself. Backup quarterback Anthony Richardson could return to action after missing the last game with a hamstring injury. 

More:A more prepared Jones plays looser, builds confidence in first SEC start

3. Who will start at quarterback for Tennessee? First-year coach Josh Heupel wasn’t giving any hints this week and offered no update Wednesday on Joe Milton III. Milton, a Michigan transfer, started the first two games before suffering a leg injury against Pittsburgh. Virginia Tech transfer Hendon Hooker replaced Milton in that game, a 41-34 loss, but started last Saturday and led the Vols to a 56-0 shutout over Tennessee Tech. Huepel did say he’s not planning to play both QBs Saturday.

More:What Josh Heupel said about Tennessee football playing two quarterbacks vs Florida Gators

Today's game questions

1. Can Emory Jones build on last week and have his first turnover-free start? 

2. Does Anthony Richardson return, and who starts for the Vols at QB? 

3. Can Florida run the ball against Tennessee’s top-five rushing defense? 

4. How does UF handle the Vols’ up-tempo offense under Josh Heupel? 

5. Are the Gators able to avoid third-down penalties and missed tackles? 

Click back Sunday for Abolverdi's answers.

Abolverdi’s pick: Florida 49, Tennessee 10 

Key matchup 

Florida’s third-down offense vs. Tennessee’s third-down defense:

The Gators struggled with third-down efficiency against Alabama, converting just four of 12 third-down attempts (33 percent). They kept two drives alive with fourth-down conversions, but turned it over on downs in Tide territory at the 37-yard line. Florida needs to do a better job of moving the chains on third down, but it won’t get any easier vs. the Vols. Tennessee ranks No. 12 nationally in third-down defense, allowing opposing offenses to convert just 27.5 percent of the time. To pull off the upset, the Vols have to win the third-down battle against Florida’s offense and force some three-and-outs.