published Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

5-at-10: Wall-to-wall UT-Florida

Let's cut the small talk — and we'll get back to other matters including the Fab 4 (plus 1) picks on Thursday. Today, we're unloading the notebook on UT-Florida. Buckle up. And remember Friday's mailbag, we have a spot open.

From the "Talks too much" studios, here we go...

UT-Florida intro

We're in full GameDay mode. ESPN is coming to Knoxville. We're ready. This is how UT football should be, with seasons hanging in the balance and the outcome spanning the full spectrum of possibility: A loss Saturday likely portends mediocrity; a win sets the stage for a potential special ride.

We decided before the week that there was simply no way to do too much on this game. Think of the stakes beyond the regular UT-Florida matters of fan pride.

This is a real SEC game with big-boy SEC stakes and it's really the first one for Derek Dooley, Tyler Bray, Will Muschamp, et al. Being in these kinds of games is the baseline expectation for these programs and the absence of that buzz in recent years is as big a testament to the recent struggles in Knoxville and Gainesville as anything.

This is the chance to see how those three and the countless others stepping into the spotlight for the first time will respond? Our UT ace Downtown Patrick Brown examines Bray's 'laid-back' approach here. And hey, we've never been one to shy away from an opinion, so try this one out: If Bray delivers a big game Saturday, he jumps on to every Heisman list around the country.

This is the chance to move a step ahead in the race back to relevance. One of these teams emerges and takes a gigantic leap closer to the front of the SEC East, the place where these programs expect to roam. The other will talk about how the season is not over and that one game is just one game. They'll be right of course, but we all know that this one game is more than one game regardless of the standings or the score of this one game.

This is a statement. Which team is ready to return? Which team is prepared to take that step? Which team is moving forward and getting better.

And know this in your soul — you either get better or you get worse, you never stay the same.

UT-Florida breakdown

Here's how we view the Vols offense: Good quarterback who has the skills to be great; improving offensive line; two potentially elite receivers.

Here's how we view the Gatros' defense: Supremely athletic, potentially dominating defensive line, couple of question marks left by injuries to linebackers Ronald Powell and Jelani Jenkins and cornerback Cody Riggs.

Here's how we view the Vols defense: Work in progress with future stars A.J. Johnson and Brian Randolph.

Here's how we view the Gators' offense: Work in progress with star power in Mike Gillislee and potential in Jeff Driskell.

Huge edge in special teams to Florida, which has kicker Caleb Sturgis compared to the Vols looking in frat houses for reliability. And as a father and former frat boy, looking in frat houses for reliability can be a dicey proposition.

So that's the breakdown in broad strokes.

Here are the keys as we see them:

Tyler Bray needs to be elite. And in truth if he is, the Vols win and it likely could get one-sided. If he struggles or does not get anything close to the same amount of time he has enjoyed in the first two weeks of his All-SEC caliber start, then the Vols are cooked. If he's simply good, then we're still talking about it being anyone's game, but the Vols' biggest edge — Bray and the passing game — would not have decided the outcome. That would not be good for the majority of the 865 area code.

Running the ball is nice, but the Vols must stop the run first. Our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer makes a strong case as to why the Vols need to run. He's right of course. But Saturday, the biggest rushing stat for the Vols will be yards allowed rather than yards gained. Sure, UT will need to keep the Gators' front seven honest, but slowing Gillislee is job No. 1.

Play even in the special teams. For some reason, Tennessee has been brutal in the kicking game in recent years. The return game have been improving, especially with the electric skills of Cordarrelle Patterson. The kicking concerns are real and scary. We know this, you know this and Derek Dooley knows this.

(Side note: We still say Cordarrelle Patterson is the second-best name in the SEC behind Barkevious Mingo. That said, parents are going all in when they pick Cordarrelle or Barkevious as a first name, right? Those are names of NFL football players, period. You pick a name like Barkevious, and his future is not going to be in real estate or stocks. "Hi, I'm Barkevious, could I interest you in some insurance plans?")

  • photo
    UT linebackers Herman Lathers, left, and A.J. Johnson line up for a drill before the start of a scrimmage at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, April 14, 2012.
    Photo by (Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess/News Sentinel)

UT-Florida predictions

Here are five things we're saying will happen Saturday (hey, book it, we're 7-3 against the number this year):

— Tyler Bray will lead the highlights Sunday morning on the college football recap shows, and by some time next week, Bray will be the No. 2 quarterback on Mel Kiper Jr.'s big board. When Bray lights up a Florida defense filled with NFL speed, he'll inform the nation of what UT fans know: Bray can slap sling a football. Plus, he'll have answered the primary question to which Johnny Vols Fan has wondered for the last two years: Can Tyler Bray win the big one?

— A.J. Johnson delivers. Johnson is arguably the best linebacker to come through Knoxville since Al Wilson, who was a first-rounder. Johnson will have to be the key to slowing the Gators' running game. He will.

— Justin Hunter, welcome to the big time. Again, Johnny Vols Fans have known that Hunter could be special and that his injury in this game last year was crippling to the gameplan and the emotional state of the Vols. The rest of the nation will get a chance to see Hunter's worth Saturday.

— Put in difficult spots, Florida quarterback Jeff Driskell will have a rough day. We believe Driskell will be a very good player in this league and last week's win at Texas A&M was impressive. That said, he is short-staffed on the perimeter and the offensive line is a work in progress in regard to pass protection.

— If it comes down to Caleb Sturgis against who ever is kicking for the Vols this week, there's going to be a lot of angry people leaving Neyland Stadium on Saturday. Here's saying it won't come down to that.

Tennessee 34, Florida 20 (Welcome back to the party Johnny Vols Fans)

This and that

— There are reports out of Nashville that a high school football coach witnessed a former Mississippi State coach give a recruit the infamous $200 handshake. Coach Byron De'Vinner told a talk-radio show that he saw former MSU receivers coach Angelo Mirando hand freshman defensive back Will Redmond the cash. The NCAA has interviewed De'Vinner and is investigating the matter. (Side note: Do you think the NCAA folks sort of fill like a bakery. "No. 43, now serving No. 43... Oh, OK Oregon. What's you're case again?")

— Along those same lines, the NAIA denied former Miami safety Ray-Ray Armstrong eligibility at Faulkner. Yes, the NAIA said no. That's like Britney Spears saying, "No, I can't wear that, it's trashy." Seriously, the NAIA saying no thanks is like someone asking for the dieter's special at Golden Corral. It's shocking and stunning and so puzzling that you think, "Wow, now that's really saying something."

— The Braves lost to Milwaukee again. So did almost every other team in the NL Wildcard race. Wow, these guys are really limping to the finish, no? In fact, we're a couple more muddle days away from the Padres, Brewers and D-Backs being right back in the thick of things.

— Yahoo released the top 20 most popular kids names from the years 1911 and 2011. Interesting data and you can find the complete lists here. William was No. 2 for boys in 1911 and No. 3 in 2011; Elizabeth stood the test of time for the girls, falling from 7th to 11th over the hundred years. We also noticed that Sophia was so popular for girls it's first and 19th as Sofia. It would be really interesting to see how far some of the mid-teen-ranking names from 1911 fell, names such as Ethel, Edna and Gladys or Harold, Albert and Arthur have fallen. Did not see any mentions of Barkevious or Cordarrelle in the top 20 on either list.

— SNL named three new cast members today, welcoming Chicago comedy bigwigs Aidy Bryant, Tim Robinson and Cecily Strong to the fold. With Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg and Abby Eliot on their way out..., wait, what difference does it make? Have you seen SNL in the last five years? It's as funny as a root canal. Wow, we can remember SNL being must-watch TV because of the musical acts, the social influence and the side-splitting comedy. Now, watching it feels like pity somehow.

Today's question

Who do you like in the UT-Florida game and why?

In fact, let's throw some predictions out there. Does this feel like a contest? Heck yes it does. It's been too long, so let's put this one together on the fly.

Submissions should be as follows: If you think Florida will win by a TD, send us your best guess at the score (Florida 24, Tennessee 17 for example).

The determining factors will be 1) Winning team, 2) score difference — if you are the only one with Florida by seven and the Gators win by seven, you win, 3) Total points — if there are two submissions with Florida by seven we'll add the scores and the closest submission in total points wins, with Price is Right rules of course.

Questions? We'll give the winner some sports tickets down the road or we'll come up with something. Heck, you may even get to appear in the next Prep Football video or something.

Whatcha' got?

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
chas9 said...

Yes, it's a big game and all that, but this must be settled.

Yesterday The Sport Talk Guys had the temerity (that's gall for you, Spy) to claim John Ward was better than The Great Larry Munson. Does any sane adult not wearing orange glasses believe that? What kool-aid are they drinking? Dr. B was, as usual, the worst offender.

Ward was good, but at least in basketball, maybe overall, Caywood Ledford was better, and Munson was way better. The radio guys claimed you were listening and communicated during the show, Jay, so did you hear that junk? Of course it may be they were faking communicating with you to help their ratings.

September 12, 2012 at 10:41 a.m.
Todd962 said...

Tennessee 24 Florida 16

Have they set a number for the over/under on how many "Bray for Heisman" signs there will be at GameDay?

I find on Saturday mornings a majority of the entertainment is going on behind Corso's mascot game. Who knew if you gave a college student a shapie, a poster board, and a 12 pack they could be so clever?

September 12, 2012 at 11:49 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

j-greeson wrote:

"We're in full GameDay mode. ESPN is coming to Knoxville. We're ready. This is how UT football should be, with seasons hanging in the balance and the outcome spanning the full spectrum of possibility: A loss Saturday likely portends mediocrity; a win sets the stage for a potential special ride"

Funny, I feel the exact same way when Yoseff and the Boone 65 come to Chat-town next Saturday. Unfortunately, ESPN Gameday could care less. Fine by me.

"Tyler Bray will lead the highlights Sunday morning on the college football recap shows"

It would be cool if he did. But on any given Saturday, anything can happen. ULM could pull an Appy State on Auburn, SMU can hand the Aggies their 2nd lost (in Dallas), and so on. These are really far-fetched but again, on any given Saturday....

"Can Tyler Bray win the big one?"

This is an important game. But to me, the "Big" is the one that I've been following since 7th grade. Commonly referred to as nothing more than "The Third Weekend in October."

After the defeat in Michigan, one ESPN on-air talent said "Alabama does not rebuild, they reLOAD!"

"Have you seen SNL in the last five years? It's as funny as a root canal. Wow, we can remember SNL being must-watch TV because of the musical acts, the social influence and the side-splitting comedy. Now, watching it feels like pity somehow."


Actually, I think it has been close to 10 years for me. While I'm 50/50 on Will Ferrell's selection of comedy performances on the big screen. I always enjoyed his time as an official SNL cast member. I officially stopped watching the day he left simply because no one was really coming up through the ranks. Also, the writing and scenerios completely suck or worse, its only funny to "them". (Seriously, SNL writers a) not everyone gets "inside New York humor" or b) most people don't get jokes about TV shows on cable channels most basic cable packages don't even carry (BBC America for example). Might as well do a skit at a radio station with cast members impersonating Dr. B, Cowboy Joe and Quake. Sure, only less than 25,000 people will get it but that's better odds than what is shown now. (Forks, this is just my opinion)

Finally, my pick in the contest will be Tennessee by six. Florida will be more of a challange but I do not believe it will be as close as when they played A&M.

Lunch time!

September 12, 2012 at 12:06 p.m.
Eustice_Chase said...

Hey All, cant stay long...just wanted to go on record that this weekends Florida vs UT game will get one sided quickly....that escallated quickly...and I'm Ron Burgundy?

Tyler Bray will put up 400 yds on these Gators through the air..but only about 17.5 yds on the ground.

Lets just hope Polardy can get it through the uprights....

thanks for having me...I love what you have done with the place.

September 12, 2012 at 12:27 p.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent —

I more or less agree with your UT-UF pick. I picked the Vols 31-20 on Monday morning, and am sticking by it. To me it comes down to two things- does the Vols offensive line keep Bray upright, and if the Vols front seven is able to stop the run? If Bray is upright, there is no way the Gators are able to stop the passing game. If the Vols can stop the run, I don't see Driskell being able to complete passes at a high enough clip to actually win the game.

The Vols could win by a lot. The biggest hang up for me is that Florida has won so much against Tennessee and by such a wide margin that it's hard to imagine that the Vols have made up that much ground. Last year, the Gators won by a dominating ten points. (Scoreboard said felt bigger.) Sure, that was in Gainesville. Sure, that was after Hunter went down and the team collapsed for the better part of a half of football. So was it circumstances last year? Have the Vols made up that much ground in one year? That feels hard to believe. I watched the UF-A&M game twice (along with a handful of other games) and in the first half the Gators were awful. The Vols would probably be up at least three scores in a similar situation. The Aggies choked it away in the third quarter, something we've seen the Vols do a lot under Dooley. But they have played good football in the third quarter of both games this year. Can they do it here?

Saturday can't get here soon enough. This game, plus Michigan State-Notre Dame, USC-Stanford, ASU-Mizzou, and Ole Miss-Texas (which continues to gain traction on my radar- for some reason I get the feeling that one is going to be an interesting game) makes for a really fun Saturday.

September 12, 2012 at 12:30 p.m.
mcpell3 said...

I'm going against all better judgement and pick FLA 22-20. I think FL's special teams out plays TN's.

September 12, 2012 at 12:42 p.m.
Blueoval said...

Weeds had a great article this morning and make a great point. Something that kind of scares me about the game in Knoxville is the winner of the TN/FL game over the last number of years has always won the rushing battle as well. I just hope TN's line can open up some holes. I don't feel comfortable with our RB's. I don't feel like TN has a clearcut established back. In my opinion Lane has looked the best (when he actually holds onto the ball). Young is just back there to hit the Homerun with his speed and it would be nice if he could Saturday.

Did I see correctly where Plarady isn't going to be handling the field goals?

TN 31 FL 20

September 12, 2012 at 12:48 p.m.

TN 28 FL 18

September 12, 2012 at 1:21 p.m.
fechancellor said...

Ten Ring,

Time is tight so without further ado...Vols 30, Gators 20.

If the Vols had a kicking game, I'd be more bullish.

chas9, two words for you, "Natural Gas."

September 12, 2012 at 1:24 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

If and when I go get married (tell Mrs. 5 I'm still in no hurry but I will one day. Did I mention lately you married up?), I guess I'll have to bring the name Erk for a son up a notch in the rankings.

September 12, 2012 at 1:27 p.m.
Todd962 said...

Speaking of big games on the near horizon....Has anyone else noticed that the Appy State game is also homecoming? Wowser.

One, who is the idiot who scheduled Appy State for homecoming. They are one of the toughest games for us all season. Thats supposed to be our cream puff game to be merry(sauced) at while we watch the Mocs win. Foolish...

Two, who is the genius who scheduled Appy State for homecoming. If there was ever going to be a game that would fill both sides of that stadium its going to be the Appy State Homecoming game. Has to be a sellout. Can you imagine what a win over an opponent of that kind in front of a capacity crowd would do for the team?

Its a dangerous line for which way that game could send the fans for the rest of the season. Blowout, not so good. Close game, good news for near future attendance. Win, huge jumping point for Huesman and the boys.

September 12, 2012 at 1:40 p.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

We were listening and texting with Quake during the end of SportTalk when they were discussing announcers.

We'll give you that Caywood is the best ever at hoops, and if anyone needs any more evidence, he was in Hooisers for crying out loud. "I'll make it."

We think if you're a Georgia fan no one will ever be able to sway your opinion on Larry. And we understand that. In fact we appreciated the way he bleed with the Bulldogs and beat on Loran and begged for one more big play. That said, when Munson was doing the game, it was tough to find out the score.

Those two are to-may-to and to-mah-to in our eyes. Ward was more solid, Munson more entrenched. So it goes.

962 —

Here's saying most of the witty is done pregame before the pregame festivities start. And there will be a few "Bray for Heisman." There will be some jorts references.

Run JMC —

SNL is brutal, and that's a very fair assessment of Will Ferrell.

As for the Third Saturday in October, well, that's not a big one — that's an impossible one right now. Win this one and take control of the East. Then we'll talk about Bama.

EC —

Brick killed a guy.

As always good to hear from you. How's you mamma and 'em?

And yes Palardy will be without FG duties.

Stuck —

This is a sneaky good Saturday.

McPell —

Hey, that could surely happen — and don't call us surely.

Plus, a couple three missed scoring chances because of FG miscues and who knows?

Oval —

Sweet Oden's Raven, we're about to get the whole band back together.

Lane is the best of UT's limited RB options. But they all are going to struggle with that Florida front seven.



September 12, 2012 at 1:43 p.m.
chas9 said...

fec--Thanks. I'll never get that earworm to go silent now. But you have a good point. He got a lot out of those two words.

September 12, 2012 at 1:48 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Addicted —

You're in. Wow, the whole gang has chimed in. You fellows are making us proud.

FE to the C —

Tickets were to be delivered today. Please let us know when you have them.

And yes, the Vols' kicking woes are worrisome.

Spy —

Would you go whole hog and name him Erskine Spy?

And yes you have mentioned that we married up and that's OK. No matter how many times it gets mentioned, it's still true as ever.

962 —

App State is big regardless. And while we concur that makes for as tough homecoming, the biggest scheduling snafu in our eyes is the three best attended games all year are Homecoming, App State and Ga. Southern. And to overlap any of those hits you in the pocketbook.

— 5-at-10

September 12, 2012 at 1:48 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Um, yeah, Ward was better than Munson. You could tune into a Georgia game and listen for 10 minutes and never got a score or a down and distance or a yard line. Or one afternoon, I listened as Munson said nothing for two minutes during game action. You could hear the locusts buzzing in the background.

September 12, 2012 at 9:34 p.m.
patrickd said...

Voooools - 27 Booms - 24

September 12, 2012 at 10:17 p.m.
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