Preview: Tennessee at Florida
The Third Saturday In September
By Denis Brown
September 11, 2007
If it is the third Saturday in September then it must be time for Florida (2-0) and Tennessee (1-1) to have their annual meeting. The defending National Champion Gators have their first true test of the season after beating Western Kentucky and Troy rather easily. The Volunteers failed to produce a significant road victory out of conference against California after losing 45-31 in week one. Tennessee will once again be on the road in an attempt to make a statement not only in the Southeastern conference, but also on the national landscape.
Last year’s matchup provided a close game that ended in a 21-20 victory for Florida. It was Reggie Nelson of the Gators that preserved the win for his team by intercepting his second pass of the game late in the fourth quarter when the Volunteers went for it on fourth down at the Florida 45. Gator Head Coach Urban Meyer is now 2-0 against Tennessee and currently sports a seven game winning streak in rivalry games over Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida State.
Tennessee has two solid players in the backfield. The leader on offense is quarterback Erik Ainge. Ainge has been starting for the Vols since the middle of his freshman year in 2004. Ainge is 47-of-85 (55%) for 672 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions in his three career games against Florida. However, the most important stat is that he only won his freshman year game against the Gators, when Ron Zook was still head coach of Florida. So far this season, Ainge is 55-of-83 for 547 yards with five touchdowns and zero picks.
The player that has been helping to keep pressure off the passing game for Tennessee this year is junior running back Arian Foster. In two games this season, Foster has 214 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries. Against California, Foster rushed for 90 yards on only 13 carries, which averages out to nearly seven yards per carry. If Foster can keep the Florida defense honest, Ainge should have some big play opportunities open up for him.
If Florida is to have any chance of repeating as national champions, quarterback Tim Tebow will have to prove that he can continue to be productive against the strong defenses of the SEC. Thus far, Tebow has been highly successful; completing 31-of-42 passes for 536 yards and six touchdowns. However, the most impressive stat is that Tebow has already rushed for 131 yards and three touchdowns.
Here are the important trends to look for in the game:
15 of the last 17 match ups have been won by the team that has rushed for the most yardage.
The team with the fewest turnovers is 11-4 in the last 17 meetings (turnovers were equal in two games).
Four points or less has separated the two teams in six of the last nine games.
Finally, the Gators have won 15 of the last 21 meetings and 10 of the last 14.
Denis Brown is an independent contributor to College Football Poll.com.