The weekend hunting trip for the Tennessee Volunteers football squad makes a drastic change this Saturday. After being embarrassed 59-14 by the Oregon Ducks last week, the game site switches from one coast to the other. This week, Tennessee, (2-1) will play their 2013 SEC opener at Florida, (1-1) against the 19th ranked Gators. If a bunch of Ducks could hand the Vols their biggest margin of defeat since 1910, we can only cringe at what the “Swamp Lizards” will do.
The 2013 version of Florida football is not your grandfather’s or even your father’s Gators. Florida has been totally unimpressive is winning 24-6 in the “Swamp” over an overmatched Toledo team, then losing 21-16 at Miami. Even though it is Tennessee-Florida week, and the Gators have won eight in a row in the series, the Vols feel this is game they can win.
Head Coach Butch Jones who was very unhappy after last week’s blow-out loss at Oregon has decided to open up the competition at quarterback. Justin Worley has started all of the Vols first three games of the season, but Jones said this week, “ Just like any position in this program, it’s open. Whatever quarterback has the best week of practice this week, will be the starter for Tennessee when we play Florida.”
Coach Jones sounds like he means business. He has been very unhappy with the lack of “big plays” for his team, especially against Oregon. Worley is averaging just 10.1 yards per completion, which ranks him 81st nationally. If I would guess which of the three back-ups for Worley has the best chance of replacing him in Gainesville it would be redshirt freshman Nate Peterman. “ At 6 a.m., he’s the first one in the building each morning,” Jones said. “He has a great grasp of knowledge. I continue to see him getting better.”
Jones hinted as much this week when he said he plans to feature more quarterback running plays in practice. Worley is the least mobile of the four U.T. quarterbacks, and an offense featuring a running quarterback will be very tough for Florida to contain.
This could be just what the doctor ordered for Tennessee. Even though the Gators are better than the Ducks defensively, they are nowhere as good on offense. They also play much slower than the Ducks, which is also good news.
Everything is in place for a Volunteer victory, which U.T. desperately needs. The last Tennessee win over the Gators was in 2004, as the Vols pulled out a 30-28 win on a fifty yard James Wilhoit field goal with six seconds remaining. Urban Meyer took over the following season for the Gators, and Florida’s win streak is now eight in a row. Tennessee still owns the longest win streak in the series though, with ten straight from 1916-1953. That came when the two schools did not play every year.
The Tennessee-Florida match up has lost a lot of its luster since the two schools were perennial SEC favorites and national championship contenders from the mid-1990s through the early part of the 2000s. During that period, I picked Tennessee to win most of the time, though Florida won most of them. For me to pick a Volunteer victory over the Gators, was usually the “kiss of death” for U.T. Now, I feel that I really have nothing to lose, and with the Vols mired in a record of 32-36 since the 2008 season, neither do they; Tennessee 27 Florida 24. Go Vols!
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Brainerd High School in Chattanooga. He is also the Head Softball Coach at Brainerd. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).