Good old Rocky Top, “Floppy Top” Tennessee.
It’s been 11 straight years since the Volunteers have heard their school’s song play at the end of a showdown with Florida. And this week the Gators players, (who were in elementary school when James Wilhoit kicked a last second game winner for the Vols) made sure to drive home the point, that the Gators own this “rivalry”.
Here’s some of the Gators musings from this week.
Ahmad Fullwood on what makes this a rivalry; “Them thinking they can beat us.”
Quincy Wilson made the most bulletin board material this week with quotes like; “We have a message from DBU (Defensive Backs University) for Tennessee, you ever seen a duck pull a truck? A duck don’t pull a truck.”
That has to be the biggest head scratcher quote in years, maybe since Steve Spurrier said “You can’t spell Citrus without U-T.” In an odd way it was a gutsy insinuation to make by Wilson, considering a big chunk of the Gators’ Tennessee teflon will be missing.
Quarterback Luke Del Rio will miss the game with a sprained knee, meaning Austin Appleby will make his first start. Everyone on the Gators side of the ball wants to point out Appleby and Del Rio were neck and neck in competition during fall camp. But I don’t care how good Appleby looked, there’s nothing like making your first with your new team in a hostile SEC road environment. Tennessee is salivating put Smokey’s teeth in to some gator tail for the first time since 2005.
3 Keys for the Gators at Neyland:
POUND THE ROCK: The Gator have shown they possess a 4-headed monster at running back with Jordan Scarlett, Mark Thompson, Lamical Perine and Jordan Cronkite. Each back is averaging over 4.7-yards per carry. While most of those averages were earned playing cupcakes like UMass and North Texas, Florida will have to utilize their rushing attack to take the heat off of Appleby. Holding on to the ball will be critical for the Gators. The Volunteers have been very successful this season at forcing fumbles. Tennessee enters the game leading the SEC with 5 fumble recoveries.
RUSH THE PASSER: Jabari Zuniga has been a beast for a Gators’ defense, which leads the nation with 16 sacks. Keeping Joshua Dobbs in between the tackles will be priority to allow Zuniga and Caleb Brantley time to get in to Tennessee’s backfield.
It’s no surprise really with the talented group Defensive Coordinator Geoff Collins controls, the Gators have the top rated Total Defense in the country. The Secondary with Jalen “Teez” Tabor and Wilson will get their chance to put their money with their mouth is. Tabor took shots at the Vols during SEC Media Days, now we’ll see if Dobbs will be willing to take shots at Tabor.
EYES ON APPLEBY: This won’t be Purdue, nor a half empty “Swamp.” Neyland Stadium will have 100,000 rabid fans screaming in this SEC East showdown. Vols Head Coach Butch Jones knows Applby’s capabilities all too well, recruiting the former Boilermaker turned Gators quarterback out of high school.
If you go back and watch Appleby while at Purdue, you see a signal caller who at times got his signals crossed. Over his past two seasons in West Lafayette he threw for more interceptions than touchdowns. Expect Gators Head Coach Jim McElwain to keep the reigns tight on Appleby with a sized down playbook.
Odds and Ends:
Antonio Callaway could go on Saturday after sitting out last week with a quadriceps injury. McElwain said of his star wide receiver “He’s moving around pretty good.”
Eddy Pinero will get a true SEC kicking test on the road in a loud environment. His first SEC game against Kentucky yielded unsavory results going just one of three in field goal opportunities. The JUCO transfer, who’s shown a zest for celebrating, will need to keep his cool and just do his job in a deafening Neyland.
With both the Gators (3-0) and Volunteers (3-0) undefeated, the winner will have the early advantage toward representing the SEC East division in Atlanta for the title game.