On Saturday afternoon, Tennessee looks to achieve a rare feat: back-to-back wins over the Florida Gators. It's a feat that's only been achieved once since divisional play started in 1992. What will it take for a second straight win over the Gators? Here are four keys in our latest The Cheat Sheet.
1. Win the turnover battle – In Week 1, the reason the Vols won was because Butch Jones' team was +2 in the turnover margin. Last week, Tennessee was -2. One turnover turned into Indiana State's lone score. The other occurred in the redzone and cost Tennessee points. In Florida's season opening loss to Michigan, their Gator defense was opportunistic and was Florida's best offense. If you have followed the history of this series, you know the significance of turnovers. With a young offense, many making their first start on the road in the SEC, taking care of the football is a must.
2. Don't lose the kicking game – The most consistent football that Butch Jones' Tennessee teams have played the last four years has been in the kicking game. Tennessee is off to a good start in 2017 with two good kickoff returns against Georgia Tech and a touchdown last week. The Vols also had a good punt return a week ago. Trevor Daniel is punting as well as anyone and Aaron Medley's kickoffs have been terrific. Tennessee hasn't kicked a field goal this season and that position battles appears to be on going. The Vols coverage units haven't been tested very much either. For years during Florida's winning streak, it seemed like they always made a big play on special teams. The Gators are good on special teams this year as well. The Vols can't give Florida anything cheap, including good field position in the kicking game.
3. Limit big plays – For the first time since Bob Shoop has been the Vols defensive coordinator, Tennessee didn't give up a play of 30 yards or more last week against Indiana State. Tennessee's defense struggled last year for various reasons. Injuries being one of them. The biggest struggle for Shoop & Co. was the catastrophic big plays they gave up. In the Gator game last year, it was a big play right out of the gate. Given what everyone saw in Week 1 against Michigan, it doesn't feel like the Gator offense can consistently drive the ball the length of the field, so it's key that the Vols don't give up cheap plays defensively.
4. Be aggressive – And that goes for both sides of the ball. Shoop hasn't blitzed. He's left a few things under wraps through two games. Part of it was due to scheme and part of it was due to the challenge the opponent presented. Simply put against Indiana State, Tennessee needed to show nothing. So what does Shoop have up his sleeve? No one is sure, but he's know for his aggressive-blitzing style and that's gotta show up against the Gator offense on Saturday.
Offensively, Larry Scott has been aggressive on first down and he's showed a few wrinkles like having John Kelly and Ty Chandler on the field at the same time. Scott must be balanced and not get pass happy on Saturday, but he's gotta get the ball down the field in the passing game and he must be aggressive in attacking the Gator defense. Tennessee rallied for the win last year because they got vertical in the passing game. Tennessee must do that Saturday to at least keep the Florida defense honest.