Tennessee expects No. 10 Gators to be back to form

BY foxsports • September 17, 2010

Tennessee coach Derek Dooley doesn't understand all the talk about the Florida Gators not looking like themselves.

He thought they looked just as physical as ever forcing five turnovers and scoring four straight touchdowns in a 38-14 win over South Florida last week.

''They blistered them pretty good,'' Dooley said. ''They look like Florida to me, so that's what we're going to expect.''

Florida has had some uncharacteristic early season struggles, and Tennessee is in the throes of an unprecedented rebuilding season. But when the two meet Saturday in Knoxville, it still promises to be the kind of physical battle that's expected from two bitter Southeastern Conference rivals.

Tennessee (1-1) is hoping to put behind a third-quarter collapse and 48-13 loss to No. 5 Oregon. Florida (2-0), a two-touchdown favorite, is looking for its first three-game road winning streak in Knoxville.

The Gators hold a 20-19 lead in the all-time series - the first time in history they've had more wins than Tennessee - and have won the last five.

The Vols nearly ended that streak last season in Gainesville, even after former coach Lane Kiffin put targets on their backs by promising a win and accusing Florida coach Urban Meyer of cheating while recruiting. The Gators won 23-13 after a couple of missed opportunities by Tennessee in the fourth quarter.

''I think there is a lot of cheerleading that goes on in the first two (nonconference) games,'' Gators coach Urban Meyer said. ''I think you find yourself as a coach trying to motivate and cheer lead and do all that, but you don't have to do that now.''

Even without Kiffin, the week leading up to the game has still had drama. Meyer suspended wide receiver Chris Rainey after he was charged with aggravated stalking for allegedly sending threatening text messages to his girlfriend. Tennessee fans quickly printed shirts that read ''Time to die,'' one of the texts Rainey allegedly sent.

The Gators looked due for an upset during three consecutive quarters of sluggish play against Miami (Ohio) and South Florida. They finally started clicking in the second half against the Bulls, and John Brantley completed 18 of 31 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns, and Deonte Thompson finished with six receptions for 83 yards in the win.

Jeff Demps had a career day after rushing for 139 yards and a touchdown and picking up a total 255 all-purpose yards, and the Gators finished with 244 yards rushing.

Florida's running game couldn't have heated up at a better time. When it comes to Tennessee versus Florida, the team with more yards rushing has won 18 of the past 20 meetings.

''I feel like they're giving more runs to Demps, a guy who can really hit that home run, score a touchdown, make game changing plays,'' Tennessee linebacker Nick Reveiz said, calling Demps one of the fastest players in college football. ''It's the guy we really have to prepare for.''

Florida's been doing its own preparation on rushing defense. The Gators are gunning for Tauren Poole, who leads the SEC after averaging 136 yards in the first two games and piling up 111 yards in the first quarter of the Vols' 48-13 loss to Oregon.

After spending two seasons buried on the depth chart, this is the junior's first shot at the Gators, and he plans to play fast for four quarters.

''We have no choice because they are going to play fast,'' Poole said. ''In order to be in this game we have to play fast and physical all game.''

Tennessee can't afford for Poole to be unsuccessful. The Vols have converted a woeful seven of 30 third-down attempts in two games, mostly due to breakdowns in their passing game on third-and-long. They fell apart against the Ducks last week after Matt Simms threw an interception on third-and-13 that was returned 76 yards for a touchdown.

The Gators could make Tennessee pay even more for miscues in the passing game. They lead the nation with eight interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.

''When the ball's in the air, it's ours,'' Florida cornerback Jeremy Brown said. ''That's something (the coaches) have implanted in us. That's our mentality. When the ball's in the air, no matter what side of the field it's on, it's our ball. Our group has really grasped that concept.''

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