The third weekend of September is typically a light week for intra-conference games in the SEC, and this weekend is no different. In fact, there are only two games that feature SEC clashes – Alabama at Arkansas and Florida at Tennessee. And since Arkansas embarrassed itself and the entire conference last weekend falling to Louisiana-Monroe, the Hogs, likely without starting quarterback Tyler Wilson, deserve to get what’s coming to them from Bama.
The Florida-Tennessee match-up, on the other hand, is a compelling one. Both teams are trying to rebound from disappointing seasons and are attempting to pull themselves up by the bootstraps after falling from the lofty perch upon which they once sat when they ruled the conference. Neither team was expected to truly challenge for the SEC Eastern Division title in 2012, but both have shown flashes of improvement early on.
Florida enters the game fresh off of an impressive victory over SEC newcomer Texas A&M. The young Gators went into a hostile environment, quickly fell behind by double digits, and maintained their poise and composure enough to orchestrate a come-from-behind 20-17 win over the favored Aggies. In the contest Florida brandished a feisty defense that allowed just 65 yards in the second half, forcing A&M to punt on each of its six second-half possessions.
That defense will be tested by a Tennessee offense, which features a number of formidable weapons, including QB Tyler Bray, who is fifth in the country in passing efficiency (194.77 rating). And receiver Justin Hunter is showing no ill-effects from a season-ending knee injury he suffered in 2011. Hunter has returned to his Freshman All-American status, ranking first in the SEC with 8.5 receptions per game and second in the conference with 109.5 receiving yards per game.
While no one will mistake this for Phil Fulmer’s Vols against Steve Spurrier’s Gators, this early-season tilt will put one of these teams in the driver’s seat to challenge the Georgia Bulldogs and the South Carolina Gamecocks in the SEC East. And make no mistake, with the struggles these two proud programs have had in recent years, that is certainly progress.
#18 FLORIDA vs. #23 TENNESSEE
SAT. SEPT. 15 – 5PM / ESPN