For the first time in over a decade, the Vols earned a victory over the Florida Gators when they roared to a 38-28 win last season. Tennessee trailed 21-0 in the first half and was down 21-3 at halftime. Then the Vols dumped on 35 unanswered points in the second half, and Tennessee sent Florida home with a loss.
The Vols will be traveling to Gainesville this season in search of second straight victory over the Gators. Tennessee hasn’t beaten Florida in consecutive years since they did so in 2003 and 2004, and one analyst doesn’t think this year will the year Tennessee ends that particular streak.
Barrett Sallee, formerly a college football writer for Bleacher Report and the current host of a sports radio show on Sirius XM, was asked during a Periscope session if he believes the Vols will earn a winning streak over the Gators this season. And his reply showed little faith in the Vols.
“No, Florida I think is a much better football team than Tennessee this year,” Sallee replied to the user’s question on Periscope. “Tennessee, when it comes to all the holes they have to fill and the fact that they get Florida Week 3, I don’t see how Tennessee is gonna have all their problems solved by that point. Florida, I think, is well on their way.”
Sallee believes the difference between the Gators and Vols this season is the amount of questions both teams have to answer. Both teams have question marks on the roster this year according to Sallee, but Florida has more answers. And Sallee thinks Florida is specifically more set at quarterback than Tennessee.
“I think Feleipe Franks (Florida’s quarterback) is the Gators’ X-factor,” Sallee stated. “I think you saw him get asked to do a lot of different things in the spring game, specifically stretch the field deep and make some tough sideline-to-sideline throws and really get after it.
“They have weapons at Florida, and I think that’s the thing, that there are weapons there. Tyrie Cleveland is a good receiver, we know about Antonio Callaway, and you can get Lamical Perine (running back) involved in a variety of different ways.”
Florida had their spring game last week, and Franks reportedly separated himself from the pack in the Gators’ quarterback battle. Franks led the Gators to three scoring drives and hit junior wide receiver Callaway for a 16-yard score and connected with sophomore receiver Josh Hammond on a 46-yard strike during his time on the field.
Sallee doesn’t think the Gators are the best team in the East, however.
“I think Florida, in terms of what they’ve got coming back, there’s no doubt they’re the second-best team in the SEC East,” Sallee added. “I think Georgia is better right now because most of their questions have been answered or are at least much more set in stone than Florida’s.”
Sallee would go on to ad that this “doesn’t mean Florida can’t necessarily answer” their questions, however. He also stated that he thinks Tennessee “has still got a lot of work to do in that regard.”
By Sallee’s measurements, the Vols are the third-best team in the SEC East at best this season. Tennessee hasn’t finished worse than second in the East since 2014, so a third place finish would be a step back in terms of overall progress for Butch Jones and the Vols. And another loss to the Gators wouldn’t win any points from fans either.