Gator Defense vs. Tennessee Running Backs

The matchup of Urban Meyer's offense and Monte Kiffin's defense is the unit battle that moves the needle. But while you wonder what the spread does against the Tampa 2, pay attention to how Tennessee decides to move their offense. Unless Jonathan Crompton is Brandon Cox 2.0, Tennessee cannot rely on their glass armed QB to win the game. Instead, they will lean on backs Montario Hardesty and Bryce Brown, who is so crooked, his entire body has scoliosis.

Since the Spurrier Era, in games decided by 8 points or less (2006, 2004, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996), the rushing leader was the winner. When Tennessee broke hearts in 2001, they outrushed the Gators 242-36. Chris Leak's touchdown pass to Dallas Baker in the closing minutes in 2006 never happens if UT isn't held to -11 rushing.

This season, Florida is allowing 84 ypg on the ground, but in 2008 it was 60.5 ypg, 14th in the nation. If you assume the Gators were at half speed against Charleston Southern and Troy, maybe we will see a defense with some teeth this weekend. They face a banged up offensive line. The Vols rushed for 115 last week against UCLA, with Hardesty getting 89 of them and a TD. The last thing Florida needs is for Hardesty and Brown to get some momentum and start popping holes in UF's front seven. And with the way Crompton plays, Tennessee has to hope for big days from their backs.

If Florida can get out in front with some prolonged drives and work field position (I'm not convinced UF is going to put a huge number on a Monte Kiffin defense), Tennessee will have no option but to put the game in Crompton's hands. If not, Tennessee can turn this into a battle of backs, the only unit where Tennessee might compete with Florida.

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