GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks went down with a devastating ankle injury late in the third quarter last Saturday but, just when things looked bleak for the eighth-ranked Gators, backup Kyle Trask stepped up and rallied his troops from 11 points down to defeat Kentucky 29-21. Now the challenge will be maintaining the momentum and not getting overconfident against a Tennessee team limping into Gainesville Saturday after a disastrous start to the 2019 season.
TV: Noon ET, ESPN. LINE: Florida -14
"I think maybe some of the criticism they've got early in this year might not be as justified as people think with the young players and the talent they have," said Gators head coach Dan Mullen of a Tennessee team that finally got on the winning end of the scoreboard last week with a 45-0 rout of Chattanooga. "If you look at how the year has gone, they're a much better team than they're getting some credit for." The Volunteers are certainly looking to become relevant again in the SEC and while a win at the Swamp against a Florida team that has won 13 of the last 14 meetings - including a 47-21 decision a year ago - won't erase the sting of the fourth-quarter collapse against BYU or the stunning loss in the opener to Georgia State (both at home) it would be something for maligned head coach Jeremy Pruitt to build on and a positive start to the conference slate. The Gators have their own concerns with Franks out for the rest of the year but Mullen will give the Volunteers plenty to think about as he plans to start Trask and bring in highly regarded redshirt freshman quarterback Emory Jones as a change of pace since he provides a running threat. "Some little different things we might try just to see as those guys grow and get comfortable," Mullen told reporters.
ABOUT TENNESSEE (1-2, 0-0 SEC)
Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano has made some questionable decisions this season but he's completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 629 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions behind an offensive line that has started different groupings each week in hopes of finding the right combination. The team is ranked just 12th in the SEC in total offense (394 yards per game), but the ground game has been productive the last two outings, rolling up 242 and 195 yards against BYU and Chattanooga, respectively, which could be trouble for a Gators defense that had some issues stopping the run against Miami (Fla.) and Kentucky. "It's about execution," Pruitt told reporters. "Knowing what to do, how to do it, and why it's important to do it that way, getting prepared throughout the week. You create the right habits during the week, and to me it's fun going on the road. … You find out who you are. Everybody is against you. You see a little bit about your character. It'll be good for us."
ABOUT FLORIDA (3-0, 1-0)
Trask took advantage of his opportunity against Kentucky, looking poised as he led the Gators' comeback while connecting on 9-of-13 passes for 126 yards with one rushing touchdown. Mullen figures to design packages and be creative with the use of his two quarterbacks but the ground game will need to become more of a threat as it is ranked 91st in the nation in yards per carry (4.51). Todd Grantham's defense tops the country in sacks (16) and is averaging 7.7 tackles for loss per game, and that push up front could prove problematic for a revamped Volunteers offensive line that has yet to face the kind of speed and athleticism of the Gators.
1. After dominating the series of late, the Gators now own a 28-20 advantage over the Volunteers, with Florida winning seven straight at home - the last two going down to the wire.
2. The Gators have four plays from scrimmage of at least 60 yards this season, tied for second in the nation with Colorado State, Nebraska and Western Michigan just behind Oklahoma State (5).
3. Guarantano has completed 62.7 percent of his passes for his career, a school record just ahead of Peyton Manning (62.5).
PREDICTION: Florida 30, Tennessee 17