Know Your Foe: Florida Gators

Breaking down the match-up between two Top 20 teams.

You could look at Saturday's matchup as Florida's elite defense versus Tennessee's offense. And that'll be a factor. But the matchup goes even deeper this year.

Let's start with the defense. The Florida Gators lead the nation with 16 sacks - four more than any other SEC team. They've also allowed just 14 points in 3 games. Tennessee could have its hands full Saturday, given the offensive line's struggles against Ohio.

"They're going to come in and they're going to try and establish the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball," Vols football coach Butch Jones said of the Gators Monday. "They're very deep and they're very talented on both sides and we have to answer the call."

However, the Vols' defense may catch a break. Certainly, having lost Cam Sutton for an extended period of time, playing without Darrin Kirkland Jr., Quart'e Sapp and a questionable Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Tennessee has felt the injury bug's bite. But it's not all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows for the Gators. Starting quarterback Luke Del Rio will miss two to three weeks with a "bum leg," as Florida coach Jim McElwain described it Monday.

Del Rio suffered a low hit to the knee Saturday against North Texas and had to leave the game early. Grad transfer Austin Appleby will start in his place.

"I don't think we're ever bitten by an injury bug," McElwain said Monday. "It's the game. I look at it as the opportunity bug. Right? There's an opportunity now for someone to come in and play."

By the same token, the opportunity bug may have bitten Tennessee. Despite facing an intimidating Florida defense that gave up 53 total yards against North Texas, and hasn't yet allowed 200 yards in a game, the loss of Del Rio may sting Florida and keep points to a minimum at Neyland Stadium.

Some books have the Vols as high as ten point favorites, en route to their first 4-0 start since 2003. More importantly, the Vols have a chance to scrape out a win against Florida for the first time since 2004, after so many close calls.


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