1. TENNESSEE FLASHBACK, 2006: This was the first of five wins by seven or fewer points for Florida’s 2006 national champions and it was the next to last year of Tennessee’s relevance in the SEC East (Vols would win the SEC East in 2007). When he took the job, Urban Meyer circled three games on the UF calendar as rivalry games that the Gators had to win – Tennessee, Georgia and Florida State. In his six years on the job, the Gators went 6-0 against the Vols and 5-1 against both Georgia and FSU. Seventh-ranked Florida’s 21-20 win over 13th-ranked Tennessee in Knoxville is probably one of the two or three most satisfying regular season wins for Meyer during his tenure at UF. The way the Gators came from behind to beat the Vols in Neyland Stadium said a lot about this team’s resilience and will to win. It was a crushing defeat for Tennessee, which felt it had the goods to be a national championship contender.
2. TENNESSEE FLASHBACK, 2006 PART II: The 2006 game will always be remembered as Dallas Baker’s redemption game and the game in which Tim Tebow showed the college football world that he was going to have a say in any success the Gators were going to have that season. Baker never forgot that 15-yard personal foul penalty that led directly to Florida’s 30-28 loss to the Vols in Knoxville in 2004 and he spent the week prior to the 2006 game praying he would get a chance to redeem himself. With the Gators trailing, 17-7, in the third quarter, Baker caught the first of his two touchdown passes from Chris Leak to stop Tennessee’s momentum and with 6:30 to go in the game, he capped a 65-yard scoring drive by catching a 21-yard TDP from Leak to give the Gators the win. It was on that game-winning drive that Tebow almost demanded the ball during a timeout with 7:53 left to play to discuss a fourth and one at the UT 28. Meyer elected to give the ball to Tebow, who powered his way for two yards and the first down. Two plays later, Leak and Baker connected.
3. TENNESSEE FLASHBACK, 2006, PART III: Reggie Nelson’s All-America campaign began on this night, also. On the first play of the game, Jayson Swain blew by the Florida corner on a streak pattern and Erik Ainge launched a throw that covered a good 50 yards in the air after a play fake that froze Florida’s linebackers and slowed down the UF rush. The pass had touchdown written all over it but Nelson playing a one-high safety seemed to come out of nowhere to make a leaping interception and he got one foot down inbounds before his momentum carried him past the sideline. On Tennessee’s last gasp drive to try to pull out the win, Nelson came up with his second interception of the game. With that game, Reggie Nelson established himself as Florida’s eraser.
4. THIS YEAR’S GAME: It’s no mystery what Tennessee will try to do when the Vols try to break their eight-game losing streak to the Gators Saturday afternoon in The Swamp. Tennessee ranks dead last in the SEC in pass offense and 13thin total offense but they’ve had a measure of success on the ground so far. Behind an offensive line that averages 312 per man, the Vols are averaging 244 yards per game rushing. The Vols are going to try to grind out first downs and shorten the game against the Gators because, among other things, it will keep the defense off the field. Tennessee ranks 11th in total defense and 13th against the pass in the SEC. Florida’s goal will be to stuff the run and make first year starter Justin Worley make plays in a passing game that lacks a go-to receiver with speed.
5. KEYS FOR THE GATORS: The Vols don’t get a lot of pass rush without bringing the house, so expect to see a heavy UT blitz package. It didn’t work against Oregon because Marcus Mariota was quick to find his target and get the ball out of his hands before the rush could get to him. After seeing Driskel stand too long in the pocket on film the past two years, you can figure Tennessee is going to try to force his hand by making him make quick decisions against an all-out blitz. This game sets up perfectly for wide receiver Solomon Patton, the Gators’ best after the catch runner, and for Matt Jones, who should be very effective running delays and draw plays straight up the gut.
6. BEWARE OF THE TIGERS: LSU is moving on up in the polls (#6 AP; #7 Coaches) and starting to look like a team capable of upsetting the Alabama march to a third straight national title. In spite of losing its usual thousand or so players to the NFL, the Tigers rank a respectable #6 in the SEC in total offense and #3 in total defense. With Zach Mettenberger looking like a real NFL prospect (45-69, 797 yards, 9 TD, 0 INT) and Odell Beckham (15 catches, 330 yards, 4 TD) running untouched through defenses, LSU finally has an answer to the eight in the box defenses they’ve seen incessantly. If LSU makes it to Atlanta for the SEC title game, no one will be able to say it wasn’t earned. The Tigers have Georgia, Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama and Texas A&M on their SEC schedule.
7. TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE FOR BO PELINI: Nebraska coach Bo Pelini is in hot water after his profanity-laced tirade against Cornhuskers fans and his recent very public spat with legendary QB Tommie Frazier, who took the Huskers to back-to-back national championships in 1994-95. Although Pelini apologized publicly for his embarrassing outburst, don’t expect Nebraska fans to be quite so forgiving. Nebraska’s defense ranks #105 nationally and #85 in scoring defense so fans aren’t exactly enamored with Pelini, who made his reputation as a defensive coach. Pelini probably would be smart to start sending out his resume because his sell by date is about to expire in Lincoln.
8. JERRY SANDUSKY WANTS A NEW TRIAL: The Pennsylvania Court of Appeals, a 3-judge panel, will has heard arguments from Jerry Sandusky’s attorneys asking for a new trial on the grounds that his lawyers didn’t have time to prepare for trial, that a prosecutor made improper references to Sandusky not testifying and that the judge mishandled jury instructions. Sandusky, the former defensive coordinator under Joe Paterno at Penn State, is serving a 30-60-year sentence in the state prison for 45 counts of child sexual abuse. Errors are made in nearly every trial but the question the judges are pondering is were the errors made in this trial egregious enough that a new trial is merited? Don’t expect Sandusky to be awarded a new trial. And, don’t you know the folks at Penn State pray every night that this nightmare would just go away?
MUSIC FOR TODAY: Since it’s Tennessee week I can’t resist the chance to break out some Doyle and Debbie. Their musical parodies of hillbilly country music remind me of the 1960s when Saturday evening TV included “The Porter Waggoner Show,” which I watched religiously … not because I particularly liked the music but Porter introduced the world to Dolly Parton and let’s just say I never knew she had big hair. Never got that high up. Someone also told me she sang. Go figure. The Doyle and Debbie Show is a flashback to that era, but it’s really funny stuff. Their costumes, style, lyrics and music are pure hillbilly country and certainly appropriate for the week when our Tennessee brethren descend from the hills to Gainesville. This is Doyle and Debbie’s classic, “When You’re Screwing Other Women (Think of Me).”