Derek Dooley has to feel good about the fact that his Volunteers enter this showdown with a 2-0 record. After crushing FCS foe Montana to open the campaign, the Vols bested Cincinnati last weekend by a 45-23 final.
"I wouldn't call it easy. I would call it routine," said Tennessee receiver Da'Rick Rogers after the triumph over the Bearcats. "You really just play like you play in practice, and it carries over in the game."
As for Florida, it has outscored its first two opponents by a combined margin of 80-3, and the squad is fresh off a 39-0 romp over UAB. That triumph enabled the Gators to improve to 94-4 against unranked opponents in The Swamp since 1990. Also worthy of mention is that the last time Florida gave up three or fewer total points over the first two games of a season was 1933. Will Muschamp, the first-year head coach of the Gators, is off to a strong start as expected.
"Anytime you win it is a positive," said Muschamp. "To win 39-0 is very difficult. At any level of football, it is difficult to get a shutout. I'm proud of our defense, but you have to contribute a lot to our offense and how they performed in the second half."
Florida holds a narrow 21-19 edge in the all-time series with Tennessee, which includes a series-record six straight wins over the Vols. Last season in Knoxville, the Gators bested Tennessee by a 31-17 final.
Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray became only the second signal caller in program history to pass for 400 yards in a game (Peyton Manning, three times) and set a school record for completion pct. with a minimum of 30 attempts, connecting on 34-of-41 passes for 405 yards in the triumph over Cincinnati.
"(Bray) looks very different than what he did last year at this time," Dooley said. "But you know this is two games. It's a long season now. We've got to get ready next week. These suckers (Florida) are good."
Tauren Poole ran for 101 yards, while Justin Hunter (10-156-1) and Rogers (10-100-2) were tremendous on the outside.
"Before we start patting ourselves on the back a little bit, let's just enjoy the win and see if we can keep up with these guys next week," added the coach.
Defensively, Tennessee wasn't exactly dominant against Cincinnati, but the club made enough big stops to win the game comfortably. The Vols yielded 396 total yards and failed to come up with a single takeaway. Furthermore, they surrendered 6.4 yards per rushing attempt, an unacceptable average. Still, holding Cincinnati to 23 points has to be deemed a solid effort.
Through two outings, Bray has connected on 78.5 percent of his passes for 698 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. Hunter has 16 catches for 302 yards and two scores, while Rogers has three touchdowns and 200 yards on 15 grabs. Those numbers are undeniably impressive, but Tennessee needs to prove capable of moving the ball and scoring points against top-level competition like Florida.
Speaking of the Gators, they are averaging 40.0 ppg and 490.0 total ypg through their first two outings. Considering the fact that they are mustering 248.5 ypg on the ground and 241.5 ypg through the air, it is safe to say that the offense has achieved tremendous balance, even though seven of the eight offensive touchdowns have been of the rushing variety.
John Brantley, the starting quarterback, has completed 67.3 percent of his passes for 424 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Chris Rainey has been tremendous, as he leads Florida in both rushing (198 yds, two TDs) and receiving (9-110-1).
"Since I've been here, I've watched a guy that is extremely competitive," said Muschamp of Rainey. "He's a great practice player. He is extremely electric with the ball in his hands and a lot of fun to watch. He does everything that you want a good football player to do in order to contribute to your football team. He's done everything we've asked of him. He's competitive, tough and has done everything we've asked of him."
Opponents are averaging a laughable 1.5 ppg against Florida to go along with 174.5 total ypg. The Gators are limiting foes to 50.5 rushing ypg behind an average of 1.9 ypc, and they have been suffocating despite forcing just one turnover.
In the recent victory over UAB, Rainey ran for 119 yards and touchdown, one of four Gators to finish with a rushing score. Brantley didn't have a touchdown or an interception, but he played fairly well and posted 195 yards through the air.