Once again the Gators reminded the Vols who owns this series, putting a beatdown on the Inbreds at the Swamp. The game was essentially a 10-point blowout, as only a multitude of penalties and a turnover gave Tennessee any chance at all to score points.
The defense achieved its goal of making the UT attack one-dimensional, stuffing the run all game long and making life miserable for trash-talking Tyler Bray, just another Vol QB to get pounded in the Swamp. The DL dominated throughout – especially Dominique Easley, who’s looking like a potential all-SEC player right now – with Jaye Howard right behind him. The return of Sharrif Floyd certainly helped out at DE, and even Ron Powell showed signs of life. Any success for the balance of this season is directly tied to how this group performs. It’s nice to see the LBs actually not have to fight off OL and get to make some plays at the LOS. The pass coverage of Jelani Jenkins was great (hands – not so much). The young secondary was tested, and had some deserved penalties, but the refereeing in general was spotty at best, and some legitimate pass breakups and interceptions were wiped away by poor calls. This group has to continue to develop mental toughness to reduce lazy penalties, but there are some future SEC-caliber players emerging. Marcus Roberson is physical enough already to hold his own against the bigger WRs he’ll face. This unit really does need the healthy return of Jeremy Brown, though. Matt Elam is doing everything at safety, but needs better (and smarter) play from Josh Evans and Pop Saunders, who is still figuring out college football.
On offense, the Gators dictated much of the tempo all day. Chris Rainey continues his early success, and hopefully doesn’t get beaten down too much as the season progresses. Trey Burton is still the one guy that can be counted on in the red zone. The OL is improving, but time is almost up before they play the big boys of the SEC. The WR group is still a disappointment, as not one guy has shown he can consistently get open and make plays. Perhaps that is partially a function of the simplistic game plans that have lead to wins, but that won’t cut it against Alabama and L$U. John Brantley has been functional so far, but is still missing some keys throws in the red zone that should be touchdowns – especially the quick seam route to either the WR or TE in the slot. He also has to improve his touch passing as well, losing a potential TD to Omarius Hines by not dropping a soft throw into the back of the end zone. Still a few shaky throws into coverage, but not as often as in 2010.
So much for Tennessee being relevant in the SEC yet……they are gonna get punished over the next 6 weeks.
Now comes the first road trip of the season to Kentucky, to face a Mildcat team that is really struggling. Tough cookies for them – the Gators need to step on their throat early and knock them out. Joker Phillips foolishly talked a lot of trash when he took over last year as to how UK was going to keep making strides……well, they are moonwalking backwards at this point. The 4 straight bowl games (3 under Rich Brooks) will be a distant memory after this season. They have lost the handful of SEC-level playmakers they had on both offense and defense to the past 2 NFL drafts, and are almost bankrupt of quality talent on both sides of the ball. Out of pure anger and embarrassment, they will probably hang around for the first half, but Florida should put them away in the 3rd quarter and start resting the starters for the brutal October stretch of games.
I expect another vanilla game plan on both offense and defense, as the Gators have too much quality across the board and will overwhelm the Mildcats.
Prediction – Florida 34 Kentucky 13