Posted: Friday September 16, 2005 11:19AM; Updated: Friday September 16, 2005 6:34PM
Now we will see what kind of impact new Florida coach Urban Meyer will have on the SEC. After a pair of tune-ups against Wyoming and Louisiana Tech, the Gators will take the training wheels off Meyer's spread option offense. Tennessee has given Florida fits lately, winning the last two meetings, including a 30-28 thriller in Knoxville last year. But as we all know, the Gators have come a long way since the days of Ron Zook.
(5) Tennessee at (6) Florida
8 p.m. ET (CBS)
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (88,548)
DeShawn Wynn had 101 yards in his debut last weekend and will look for bigger numbers when the Gators host Tennessee on Saturday.
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Florida will try to spread the field and air it out, taking advantage of quarterback Chris Leak and its trio of playmaking receivers -- Andre Caldwell, Chad Jackson and Dallas Baker. But in order to do so the Gators must establish the run. That means junior tailback DeShawn Wynn, who ran for a career-high 101 yards against Louisiana Tech last week, must be effective early and Leak has to be opportunistic about taking off downfield. If Florida can stretch Tennessee's aggressive D, Leak will pick the Vols apart. On defense, the inexperienced Gators have their work cut out. They need to make big plays, stop running back Gerald Riggs and force one of Tennessee's quarterbacks to beat them.
The Vols have had two weeks to think about their unimpressive season-opening 17-10 win over UAB. Rick Clausen, who came off the bench to relieve an ineffective Erik Ainge, will get the start at quarterback, but expect both to see action. Whoever is under center will have a pair of big-time receivers in C.J. Fayton and Chris Hannon. But Riggs is the key. He rushed for 110 yards against UAB, and if he's effective Saturday the offense will open up. Tennessee's strength is its defense, and linemen Jesse Mahelona and Justin Harrell and linebackers Kevin Simon and Jason Mitchell have the ability to create havoc for Leak & Co. The Vols are also solid in the secondary, led by ball-hawking corner Jason Allen.
In the preseason I picked Tennessee as my flop team, and the Vols haven't given me any reason to think otherwise. Though Tennessee has won the last two meetings in the Swamp, neither Clausen nor Ainge has a victory there and they will be bothered by the raucous Gator fans. Florida will be slowed by the Vols' swarming D, but in the end Meyer will come away with his first big victory in Gainesville.
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