They say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. So, in an effort to help Florida football fans better understand the mindset of Tennessee Volunteer fans, we reached out to All For Tennessee writer Caleb Calhoun and asked him a few questions before the game. Saturday in Knoxville.
Football in Florida: Questions for Tennessee Volunteers writer Caleb Calhoun
Despite being favored and getting a lot of national attention, is there still an underdog attitude for Tennessee given the show’s history?
CC : Absolutely. Tennessee fans live by two rules. They know they will always beat Kentucky no matter how better Kentucky is in any given year, and they will never lose to Florida no matter how better they are than Florida in any given year. a given year.
When Florida’s dominance began in this series, it wouldn’t have been. Sure, they owned the Vols during the Urban Meyer years, but that was understandable since the Vols was a declining program and Florida was in its prime. Honestly, the last four years are also understandable because Florida has been the better team.
What led Vol fans to abandon the series was the post-Meyer era. From 2011 to 2017, they should have had more than one win. There was no excuse to go 0-4 against Will Muschamp, and that run from 2014 to 2017, when they went 1-3 by blowing two two-point leads in the fourth quarter and giving up a Hail Mary, valid l idea that they were just cursed against Florida.
As a result, no Knoxville fan will believe the Vols are winning until they see it. They’ve just been too traumatized by recent history.
We all know Tennessee’s high-flying offense, but who are the defensive playmakers UF will have to worry about?
CC : Byron Young is an All-SEC passing thrower who can do a lot of damage. He’s probably the biggest star in the unit.
Jeremy Banks and Trevon Flowers also received preseason All-SEC recognition. Banks is more of a run-stopping linebacker, and Flowers is the glue of the free safety that holds the entire secondary together with his veteran leadership. They were each involved in a forced fumble last week, and Flowers was intercepted and sacked the previous week.
What is the level of confidence among fans that Josh Heupel is the guy who will bring UT back to prominence?
CC : This is much higher than when he was hired. Confidence in Josh Heupel soared, ironically, the week after last year’s Tennessee-Florida game, when the Vols beat the Missouri Tigers 63-28 on the road.
It was the game to really get UT started, and it set them on the path to what became a 7-6 season. While that sounds very mediocre, anyone who has closely followed how disastrous the Robberies program was couldn’t help but be shocked that they finished with a winning record.
Remember, this was a team that went 3-7 the year before. He fired his head coach and suffered a wave of more than two dozen transfers. They were under investigation by the NCAA and had to learn new attack and defense patterns. Facing it all and going 7-6 is one of the most impressive coaching jobs in SEC history.
What’s the key to Tennessee’s success and cover against the Gators?
CC : Turnovers are always easy, but for Tennessee in particular, it’s all about avoiding mistakes on special teams. The Vols missed a field goal last week, and the week before they had a blocked punt and a missed punt return.
On defense, linebackers have to play smart in coverage. It was a problem last year, which is why quarterbacks like Matt Corral could run for 195 yards, and given Anthony Richardson’s mobility, it could become a problem again. After facing two backhanded passers and a terrible Akron team, this is the Vols’ first real test against a legitimate, dual-threat quarterback.
We saw App St nearly lose to Troy last week when Gameday showed up and they had the eyes of the nation on them, does UT risk a similar disappointing performance?
CC : History suggests they are. Flights are 3-6 when GameDay arrives in Knoxville. In three of those losses they were the top seeded team and in four of those losses they were favored.
To be fair, it ties into their history with Florida, as GameDay has been on hand for the Tennessee-Florida game eight times, five times in Knoxville. Flights are 1-4 on these tours.
However, a lot of that comes down to training and how well they prepare everyone for the week, and every season, week and game stands on its own. Only time will tell if this is again a problem.
Would it be better for UT if this game was a shootout or a slugfest?
CC : They want a shootout. The ideal play for the Vols is to force Anthony Richardson into obvious passing situations. If they can do that, the spy issue with the linebackers will be canceled and the defense can remain in attack mode. Keeping the game high score is the way to force this situation.
When Neyland rocks, it really rocks. How much extra confidence for UT comes with this sold-out home game?
CC : It probably won’t mean much, but it should have an impact. These Vols are a first taste of UT fans’ passion when they have just a little hope.
There was a sellout last week against Akron of all teams, and that must have helped the Vols dominate 63-6. They were still going to win, but covering a 47.5-point spread was shocking because it was a trap game between Pittsburgh and Florida.
Even Josh Heupel was shocked by the fan support, and history shows the Vols can thrive on it. In their last win over Florida, they fell behind 21-0, but after their first touchdown, the fan base buzzed, and they fed off of it to boot (although very poor coaching from Jim McElwain in the second half helped).
Match prediction: who wins and by how much?
CC : I’m never supposed to pick Tennessee over Florida no matter what the teams’ situation is, but I do in this one. Anthony Richardson isn’t himself right now, and this is the Gators’ first test drive in Tennessee.
The Flights won’t cover, but they will win.
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