Sept. 14, 2009
BY JOSH PATE
Football is a game of streaks, and Florida has no problem with that as it looks to keep two alive and end another one this week against Tennessee.
The Gators come into Saturday's kickoff in The Swamp riding a 12-game winning streak dating to a loss to Ole Miss last season. It's tied for the longest run of victories in school history. Florida also has won four consecutive games against Tennessee going back to 2005 when head coach Urban Meyer was hired.
On the flip side, the Gators and Volunteers stand even on the series with 19 wins apiece. A win by Florida would give it the series advantage for the first time ever, and recent history is on the Gators' side. Florida has won 17 of the last 23 games against Tennessee, and nine of the last 11 in Gainesville.
Having said all that, this is a game of points, too.
In the last four games between the two schools, Florida has scored less than 20 points just one time (2005, 16 points) while Tennessee has not scored more than 20 points in any of those games. Florida has averaged 31.5 points in the last four games; Tennessee has averaged 13.25.
What to Watch:
Scoring is another trend for the Gators. It's not only about how many points Florida scores, but also when it scores.
Tradition says win the coin toss and defer to the second half, giving the opponent the ball to open the game. In that aspect, Florida may be OK if Tennessee wins the toss. The Gators are 36-1 under Meyer when scoring first in a game (10-8 when the opponent scores first). If they sustain that lead until halftime, they're 41-3.
Tying that into the statistics, if UF outrushes its opponent, the record stands at 44-5 under Meyer. When the opponent rushes for more yards, the Gators are 2-4.
Did You Know?
Only one other time in the series has a team entered the game ranked No. 1 in the nation. Florida held the top spot going into the 1994 contest in Knoxville while the Vols were ranked 15th. The Gators shut out the Vols 31-0 in a Knoxville downpour, handing Tennessee its worst home loss since 1924 and first shutout since 1980.
Strengths and Weaknesses:
Florida's defense has not allowed a touchdown this season, giving up only three field goals in two games. Florida opponents are 1-for-3 in the Red Zone.
Florida's offense has led the SEC in Red Zone touchdown percentage since 2007, scoring 115 touchdowns in 151 attempts (76.2 percent). Tennessee ranks fourth in the conference (61.3).
The Gators lead the nation this season in yards per game (643.5), yards per touch (10.5) and touchdowns (16).
Florida's first two games of the season have been warmups. It beat Charleston Southern 62-3, and followed that up by beating Troy 56-6 - neither of which can replicate SEC competition.
The offensive line lost two tackles from last season's national championship team, leaving two critical positions to be filled to bulk up the run game.
Expectation may be Florida's worst enemy. The schedule is good. The talent is there. But last season the hiccup was Ole Miss, although the Gators cruised the rest of the year. Will there be another speedbump?