Each week, HHR's Southern Gents, Rusty and Rev. Shaw Moore, will steal a page from NASCAR.com and go Head2Head and argue the winners of one of the week's upcoming marquee games.
Rev Pick the Vols.
Florida has won four straight against Tennessee, including a 59-20 romp over the Vols last year in Knoxville. For those of us who’ve watched SEC football for most our lives, I think we can all agree that the world was a better place when this was an actual hot-blooded rivalry. So allow me to send a big “THANK YOU” to Vols coach Lane Kiffin for doing the unthinkable: calling out Urban Meyer and the Gators. As I write, I’m sure the Gator faithful are loading up on the brown water in preparation for Saturday’s big game.
Though Kiffin has next to no standing in the SEC, I like the fact that he’s trash talking Florida. Clearly, the Tennessee fan base is depressed – except for a freak appearance in the SEC title game, the last four or five years of the Phil Fulmer regime were enough to make ole’ Smoky howl in disgust. Vols fans need something to cheer about, or at least a leader to rally around.
On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that Kiffin’s remarks weren’t as innocent as that. From Athens to Baton Rouge, the hatred for the Gators is near universal – so give Kiffin a little credit for saying what everyone else in the league thinks, but would never dare say.
Clearly Florida is the superior team heading in to Saturday’s matchup, led by Mr. Universe, Tim Tebow. That doesn’t mean that the Vols don’t have a chance. I might be one of the (very) few who believes this, but I think the Vols are going to give the Gators a pretty good fight on Saturday.
Tennessee’s obvious strength is their defense. The Vols sport their own Mr. Universe, of sorts, in All-American safety Eric Berry – he’s one of the premier defensive talents in the country, and he won’t hesitate to blow up any ball carrier if given the chance. Though the Vols lost last week vs. UCLA, you can’t fault the D – they yielded only 186 total yards and four field goals to the Bruins. Plus, with former NFL defensive savant Monte Kiffin calling the shots, I think Florida’s gimmick spread offense could be in for a challenge it hasn’t seen for quite some time.
The offense, well … that’s another story. QB Jonathan Crompton was highly regarded coming out of high school, but he has fallen far short of his billing so far in college. He was simply atrocious against UCLA last week (13/26, 93 yards, 3 Int’s), almost single-handedly tanking the game for UT. He’ll get his shot to do better this week – Crompton is sure to see seven- and eight-man fronts from Florida, who I expect will load up to stop the run (UT backs Montario Hardesty and Bryce Brown combined for 40 carries last week). Quick, intermediate routes should be there for Crompton; but after last week’s performance, it’s anybody’s guess whether he’ll be completing those passes to UT receivers or to Florida defenders.
All that aside, it was just a year ago that Ole Miss marched into the Swamp and upset Florida. I think it can happen again here. Tennessee has to get better production out of their offense this week and not turn the ball over so carelessly. Tennessee rang up 63 points in week one against Western Kentucky; obviously they’ll face a much, much more talented foe this week, but you know there is some talent on that side of the ball. I expect the UT defense to play as well as any unit the Gators will face this year, and if they can force some turnovers of their own – look out! Lane Kiffin better start learning the words to Rocky Top, because I’m calling the upset special: 28-26 in favor of the Vols.
Rusty Takes Tebow.
Ole Rusty knew the Rev, or All-In as he's known in other circles, was a gambler, but this is just insanity. Thinking that UT has a snowball's chance at beating Florida, especially in the Swamp, makes as much sense as a screen door on a submarine. Why, you may ask? I've got 1 word for you, TEBOW!!!! This kid is good. He's like Jesus, Buddha, Muhammed, and Obama all wrapped up in one package. He throws TD's, he runs for TD's, he teaches Sunday School, he wins Heisman's, I think he even does your taxes.
In addition to Tebow on offense, the defending national champion Gators brought back all 11 starters on defense. On the offensive side of the ball, one of the few big losses was star wideout Percy Harvin, who's now playing ball on Sundays. His loss does hurt, but with so many other weapons, including Tebow (I really cannot mention him enough) and a stout defense, Florida should easily be able to handle Tennessee. At the running back position, Florida's got a cadre of talent and they all get to run behind of the best offensive lines in the NCAA.
It's quickly easy to see why Florida's got the #1 offense in the country. In Florida's first two games against Charleston Southern and Troy, they chalked up an amazing 118 points, while the defense only gave up 9. They are fast, big, and able to run up the score, quickly.
Now, as if going down to the swamp to play the Gator behemoth isn't enough of a challenge, Tennessee decided they'd get into a war of words and hurl some verbal footballs down to Gainesville, too. Now, if you've gotta go climb a tree, does it make sense to stir up the hornet's nest hanging from the branch, first?
So, make no mistake about it, Urban Meyer will have his boys more than ready, and the Swamp will be jumping come Saturday. Tennessee's got a new coach, a questionable quarterback, and has to go on the road to one of the toughest places to play against the #1 team in the country with JesuBamahammeda at the helm. Sorry, Rev . . . the Gators win this one, and win it big.