It may sound familiar but — for now — it is true. Despite a loss at Alabama the Florida Gators have all of their goals sitting in front of them, at arms length, ready for the taking.
“All the goals are still there, got a lot of football to play everything’s out in front of us,” Will Muschamp said on Monday. “Let’s go get it.
The idle week came at a great time for the Gators. Trenton Brown, D.J. Humphries and a few other Gators were nursing injuries and needed the week off to recuperate. It was also an opportunity for the wild, wild SEC East to continue playing out like an episode of Days of Our Lives.
Missouri (4-1, 1-0 SEC) took down South Carolina (3-2, 2-2 SEC), while Georgia (3-1, 1-1 SEC) squeaked by Tennessee (2-2, 0-1 SEC). Kentucky (3-1, 1-1 SEC) handled a Vanderbilt (1-4, 0-3 SEC) team that looks like it won’t win a conference game all season.
The weekend left Missouri alone atop the SEC East standings with South Carolina second and Florida, Georgia and Kentucky tied in third.
This weekend is a make or break weekend for the season.
It’s early but this is it for the Gators. Florida brings in a nine game winning streak over the Vols but those past nine teams won’t suit up and take the field this Saturday.
A win this week and Florida will carry momentum into a home contest against LSU. A loss and the fan base will grow restless, Muschamp’s seat will grow hotter and the LSU game will look like a mountain too tall to climb.
Going 1-2 in the SEC may not mathematically eliminate Florida with games against LSU, Missouri, Georgia, South Carolina and Vanderbilt still on the schedule but a loss this week would be devastating to Florida mental state and their confidence.
It’s college football so every week is a “must win” game. This week, however, there is even more meaning to those words. The winner of this game will still have all of their goals in front of them, while the loser will be sent to the SEC cellar with Vanderbilt.
Tennessee is coming off of a tightly contested game with Georgia. Butch Jones has the Vols and their fans believing. The whole, “brick by brick” mantra is picking up steam and the Volunteers have some serious playmakers this season. Freshman running back and Mr. Tennessee football as a high school senior Jalen Hurd has 72 carries for 328 yards and two scores on the season. The 6-3, 227-pound Hurd is a load to tackle and after the Gators defense wilted late in the game trying to tackle Derrick Henry two weeks ago, we’ll see what they’re made of this week.
Florida needs to limit Tennessee’s running game and make Justin Worley beat them with his arm.
On the other side of the ball, Tennessee is playing with an entire new defensive line that hasn’t been able to stop a nosebleed on the ground. The Vols are allowing 169 rushing yards a game, dead last in the SEC. Florida, despite having to play against Alabama’s No. 3 nationally ranked rush defense, is still averaging 201 rushing yards a game.
Getting both Kelvin Taylor and Matt Jones going early will be key. Neyland Stadium is sold out this week and if the Gators can get the running game going early they can keep the 102,455 paying fans on their seats and keep them from being a factor on Saturday.
Three eye-opening stats for the game
The Vols bring in the nation’s best third down defense (20.75%) against a Florida offense that has only converted on 34% of their third down chances.
Florida is tied with South Carolina as last in the SEC with just six sacks on the season. Tennessee has allowed a SEC high 12 sacks through four games.
Tennessee is the least penalized team in the SEC, averaging just four penalties for an average of 28.3 yards per game. The Gators are last in the SEC averaging 7.7 penalties for an average of 71.3 yards-per-game.