TENNESSEE FLASHBACK, 2002
Tennessee came into this game at Neyland Stadium ranked #4 nationally and even though the Gators were ranked #10, they looked like easy pickings. Because of the huge loss to Miami in the second game of the season, Ron Zook was already under fire from dissatisfied Gator fans but for one Saturday, at least, he shut them up. The Gators’ 30-13 win was aided and abetted by the Vols, who shot both feet off with seven first half fumbles including four on consecutive plays. Rex Grossman threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns and Taylor Jacobs caught nine balls for 141 yards and two scores.
SATURDAY’S MR. TWO BITS
It was Erricht Rhett in the season opener against Toledo, described by former UF linebacker and teammate Erricht Rhett as “a melted Hershey Bar in a yellow wrapper.” Saturday against Tennessee the celebrity Mr. Two Bits will be Danny Wuerffel, the 1996 Heisman winner who was 3-0 as a starter against the Vols in his career with 13 touchdown passes including six in the Gators’ 62-37 win at The Swamp in 1995. My guess is that the ovation for DW will be loud and long, that the crowd will get seriously revved and by the time the Gators come running through the tunnel every Gator fan in the stadium will be lathering at the mouth.
STUFFING THE RUN
Everyone in the ball yard knows what Tennessee will try to do Saturday afternoon. The Vols are going to spread the field and the Florida defense, then rely on that huge offensive line to knock the Gators off the ball. That puts the pressure squarely on the shoulders of Florida’s defensive tackle rotation of Dominique Easley, Leon Orr, Darious Cummings and Damien Jacobs. Their job will be to stay gap sound, clog the middle and force the Vols to try to bounce the ball outside. Tennessee will run its share of read option plays to keep the Gators from stacking the box but this should play to the strength of the UF defense, which has the speed and the athletes to run down plays to the outside. If the Vols are held to 120 or fewer yards running the ball, Florida should win this game easily.
WILL THIS BE THE GAME MUSCHAMP CUTS THE OFFENSE LOOSE?
Now, the Gators certainly aren’t an offensive machine like Oregon, but this should be a get well game for the UF offense. The only way the Vols can get any pressure is to bring the house, which means it will be up to Jeff Driskel to get rid of the ball in a hurry and for Florida’s receivers to get out of the jam at the line and into their routes quickly. This is a game that sets up very well for Solomon Patton. He’s so quick off the line and has the ability to find a seam for big yardage after the catch. Trey Burton will have a linebacker on him most of the game, so he could also come up very big. It’s also a game that should bode well for Florida’s running backs. The Tennessee defense is absolutely a sucker for a sprint draw. I could see Matt Jones having a really huge game.
CLEMSON IS THE FOURTH BEST TEAM IN THE COUNTRY?
I don’t think so. I saw Clemson’s 26-14 win over North Carolina State and while it was a short turnaround (Clemson played last Saturday), which might explain some of the sluggishness on offense, I don’t think that is a defense that you can win a national championship with. Clemson has some offensive weapons and perhaps the ability to outscore anyone it plays, but what happens if the offense isn’t clicking? I know the Tigers can win games with their offense, but can their defense win games? I don’t see it, at least at this point of the season.
SOMETIMES GETTING FIRED ISN’T SUCH A BAD THING
If you’re a head football coach at a power conference in Division I there are worse things than getting fired. Take Iowa, for example. If Iowa wanted to fire Kirk Ferentz, they would owe him monthly installments of 75% of his $3.9 million per year salary until 2020, which is a pretty good deal if you ask me … Charlie Weis, whose buyout at Notre Dame cost the school somewhere in the neighborhood of $19 million, has a great contract at Kansas. If Kansas wants to can him, it will only cost a cool $7.5 million … Texas seems intent on jettisoning Mack Brown at the end of the season. He is under contract for $5.4 million through 2020. It will cost at least $15 million to buy him out … Lane Kiffin is owed $4.8 million on the remainder of his contract at Southern Cal. The buyout is estimated at $2.4 million.
THERE HAS BEEN CONTACT BETWEEN SABAN’S AGENT AND TEXAS
The Associated Press has confirmed that there was contact between University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall and Nick Saban’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, a few days after Alabama won the national championship last January. Also on the call was Regent Tom Hicks, the former owner of the Texas Rangers, Dallas Stars and Liverpool soccer team from the English Premier League. The subject of the conversation was to inquire if Saban would be interested to replace Texas football coach Mack Brown if he either stepped down or was fired. Who initiated the call is unclear. Sexton and a University of Alabama spokesman did not return calls. Saban denied knowing anything about it and said, “I’m too old to be starting over again.”
DUMB THINGS SAID BY CLEMSON-NC STATE TV ANNOUNCERS
My comments in parentheses with perhaps a tad of sarcasm – “The offensive line will be without one of its offensive tackles tonight” (You mean the O-line plays with DEFENSIVE tackles?) … “The strength of the defense is the defensive line” (Well, darn if that doesn’t clear things up. Here I was thinking maybe the strength of the defensive line was the wide receivers) … “They do a good job of rushing the ball in the ground game” (As opposed to passing the ball in the ground game) … “I think he was down at the half-inch yard line” (Other than the fact that defies everything I was ever taught in mathematics …).
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Back when the Florida-Tennessee rivalry was THE game every September, the Vols used to hate to come to The Swamp for that 3:30 game on CBS because it was at least 90 degrees in the shade. While thinking about that today, I found this cut of “90 Degrees in the Shade” by the British acid jazz band Heavy Shift. When I was commuting between Orlando and London for business in 1998, I got to see this band perform live in a London club. I never understood why they never caught on in a big way. I think you’ll like this song, too. If it’s 90 degrees in the shade Saturday afternoon, the Vols will wilt and it will seem like old times at The Swamp.