This sponsored post has been in our editorial dashboard for two weeks, and my first two ideas for it were writing about Vernon Hargreaves III and Jalen Tabor and Will Grier and Treon Harris. So, uh, let's hope by forestalling this until just before kickoff that I have cancelled out any psychic jinx properties.
Florida's game against Tennessee on Saturday could be the continuation of a recent trend — victories for the team that wears blue — in the series. But it almost certainly will be the continuation of a different recent trend:
The team that runs better will win.
Per Florida's pregame notes, that's been the Gators over every game in their current 10-game winning streak over the Volunteers; the closest Tennessee came to holding the advantage in rushing yards during that span was a 68-66 deficit in 2005.
In 2004, when Tennessee last won, the Vols gained 171 yards on the ground ... while Florida tallied just 135 yards of its own.
The link between rushing yards isn't limited to this series alone — longtime Gators fans will recall a similar pattern of success by the team with more rushing yards in their series against Florida State — nor is it necessarily a causal one. Running to get ahead and running to stay ahead are, of course, different things.
But the ability to do either or both typically paves the way for success on offense, and can hamper a defense. And that brings us to Jarrad Davis and Antonio Morrison, the two most important players on the field for Florida's defense this Saturday.
Davis and Morrison are both excellent run-stoppers, who flow well to the ball both laterally and on a north-south basis. They're also all Florida has at linebacker, with Alex Anzalone and Jeremi Powell hurt enough to warrant the elimination of a third linebacker position on Florida's depth chart.
Davis (especially) and Morrison have proven to be hardy enough to go the distance over Florida's first three games in 2015 — an impressive feat for each Gator, considering both had their 2014 seasons ended by injury. And simply doing that while tackling Tennessee's talented duo of running backs — Jalen Hurd, a load, and Alvin Kamara, a more slippery type — may be all that can be reasonably asked of both players. Neither one is particularly good in coverage, nor should they be expected to be, and with Florida playing nickel packages as base sets, neither one may be tasked with dropping back very often.
But they will likely need to drop Tennessee's backs, and often, for Florida to maintain its recent edge in the running game in this series. To extend the Gators' decade of perfection against Tennessee, Jarrad Davis and Antonio Morrison may have to be a perfect combination on this Saturday.