The Florida Gators travel to Knoxville this week to renew their annual rivalry with the Tennessee Volunteers. They will be aiming to leave Neyland Stadium with their twelfth straight win over the Vols. They will be doing so presumably with a backup quarterback, as it appears Luke Del Rio is out with a knee injury.
But beating the Vols with a backup quarterback is not unfamiliar territory for Florida. In 2013, starter Jeff Driskel was knocked out of the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury, and Tyler Murphy stepped in and led the Gators to a 31-17 victory. The following year, after falling behind 9-0 in the fourth quarter, Driskel was once again replaced, this time by Treon Harris. Harris lead the team to ten straight points en route to a 10-9 win in Knoxville.
This year, the role of backup turned lead guy will be played by fifth-year Graduate Transfer Austin Appleby. Appleby is in his first year with the Gators after spending his first four at Purdue, and will be making his first start for Florida on Saturday.
So what will it take to get yet another win over their rival? Here are my keys for a Florida victory on Saturday afternoon:
Protect the football
With Austin Appleby tossed into the starting role, protecting the football on offense will be vital. Appleby will not be asked to do much. The Gators will just try to put together some scoring drives and rely on their stingy defense to get the job done. So for Appleby and the offense, avoiding risky throws, as well as ball carriers holding on to the football, will be priority number one against the Tennessee defense.
Consistent play from the offensive line
Offensive line play for Florida has been shaky at times this year. With a backup behind center, it is even more crucial that the line controls the line of scrimmage and provides consistent protection Saturday. They must keep Appleby upright and give him a clean pocket to throw from.
In addition with providing protection for the passing game, it will also be very important that the O-line creates lanes for the running game to get going.
Get the running game going
So speaking of the running game, Florida has a stable of running backs that will look to eat up yards, move the chains, and alleviate pressure on Appleby and the passing offense. All four running backs that see regular time for the Gators are each averaging at least 4.7 yards a carry, and I imagine Florida will try to get them going early and often.
Get after Josh Dobbs
Florida’s defensive line vs Tennessee’s offensive line is a matchup that heavily favors the Gators. Tennessee is coming off a game against Ohio where the Bobcats racked up three sacks and eight tackles for loss. Meanwhile, Florida leads the nation with 16 team sacks.
Tennessee’s passing game has been woeful to this point, with Josh Dobbs only averaging 162 yards a game through the air. Florida will look to get after Dobbs all afternoon and make him as uncomfortable as possible, which could lead to creating turnovers.
Shut down Jalen Hurd
With Tennessee’s struggles in the passing game, as well as Florida boasting arguably the best secondary in the country, the Vols will turn to running back Jalen Hurd to provide a spark on offense.
Florida is only giving up 42 yards on the ground for the season, and knows that shutting Hurd down and not allowing him to get going will go a long way into leaving Knoxville with another victory.
Lastly, Florida just needs to play smart and avoid penalties. The Gators are confident they match up well against the Vols, and just need to play disciplined.
The offense needs to stay in manageable down and distances, and avoid penalties that create third and long situations.
The defense will play aggressive as usual, but will need to keep their heads and avoid giving Tennessee any unnecessary yardage.
Heisman Trophy Finalists Include Joe Burrow, Justin fields, Jalen Hurts, Chase Young
The finalists for the Heisman Trophy have been unveiled and LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts, and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields and defensive end Chase Young are headed to New York this weekend for the 85th edition of the award for the most outstanding college football player.
The winner will be announced on Saturday night during a ceremony that kicks off at 8pm est on ESPN.
“In my opinion, he should win it,” LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said, according to ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura. “In my opinion, he’s going to win it. The best thing about Joe is he’s a team player. All he wants to do is win this game. Individual awards are not high on his list. That’s what makes him such a great team player.”
While Burrow may have the most momentum heading into the ceremony, and is the likely number 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Young is the first Ohio State defensive player to finish in the top four in Heisman voting, and Young is the first defensive player from the Big Ten to do so since Michigan’s Charles Woodson won the award all the back in 1997.
Young led the nation with 16.5 sacks and in tackles for loss per game with 1.9.
Additionally, Ohio State is the seventh school to have multiple players invited to the Heisman ceremony in the same year, but the first to have both an offensive player and a defensive player.
Rutgers Brings Back Greg Schiano with Eight-Year, $32 Million Deal
Rutgers is bringing back Greg Schiano as their head coach following a lengthy negotiation process that has led to an eight-year, $32 million deal, according to ESPN.
“Today we open the next great chapter for Rutgers Football,” Rutgers athletic director Pat Hobbs said. “Coach Schiano is absolutely the best person to lead our program. He brings a quality of leadership and integrity that will make all of us proud in the years ahead. I couldn’t be more excited for our student-athletes and our fans.
“A lot of hard work lies ahead, but we will all keep chopping together with Coach to achieve success in the Big Ten. We all know what the goal is and we all must do our part. I can’t express enough appreciation to Greg and Christy Schiano, the first family of Rutgers Football. Welcome back!”
Schiano went 68-67 from 2001-2011 as Rutgers head coach.
“Rutgers University and this football program have meant the world to me and my family,” Schiano said in a statement put out by the school. “I arrived here in 2000 with the goal to build a program that would be a source of pride for the state of New Jersey and develop great young men. I look forward to embracing that challenge once again. This is a great opportunity for all of Rutgers to pull together to get us back to where we all know we belong. It will take everyone on this campus and in the State of Rutgers to get this done.”
Schiano left Rutgers in 2012 to become the head coach of the Tamp Bay Buccaneers, in a tenure that lasted just two years.
“I commend Rutgers Athletics Director Pat Hobbs and Coach Schiano for reaching an agreement following very complex negotiations to bring on this new, exciting chapter for Rutgers Athletics,” Rutgers President Robert Barchi said. “We are all thrilled to welcome Coach Schiano. He is the right coach at the right time to build our Big Ten football program into a long-running source of pride for Rutgers.”
Ole Miss Fires Matt Luke
Ole Miss is moving on from head coach Matt Luke, who was fired on Sunday following three seasons at the helm of the Rebels.
“After evaluating the overall trajectory of our football program, we did not see enough momentum on the field and determined a change is necessary in order for our student-athletes to compete at the highest level” Athletics director Keith Carter said in an official statement.
“While improvements were evident in certain aspects of the program, we are judged ultimately by our record, and, unfortunately, we did not meet the standard of success that we expect from our program. We will always be grateful to Coach Luke for his leadership, particularly from a recruiting, academic and overall culture standpoint. At the same time, winning is important, and we know that we can compete for championships at Ole Miss.
“A search is underway to find a new head coach who can build a complete program that attracts top talent, develops them as young men and sustains a winning mentality. We will be looking for the leadership, energy and commitment to excellence necessary to compete in the Southeastern Conference and galvanize our passionate fan base.”
Luke compiled a 15-21 record during his tenure at Ole Miss.
According to the Clarion Ledger’s Nick Suss, the firing of Luke was not well-received by some of the players, with some storming out of the team meeting angry over the decision.
Many are speculating that the Egg Bowl was what set the firing in motion. However, it is worth noting that attendance was becoming an issue in the midst of a losing season, and with a new athletic director in the fold, change was likely coming sooner or later.
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