GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WVLT) — Tennessee hits the road for the first time this season with a trip to The Swamp to take on No. 9 Florida on Saturday afternoon to open Southeastern Conference play.
The Vols and Gators will meet for the 49th time overall and 20th time in Gainesville on Saturday. Kickoff is slated for 12:02 p.m. ET.
Saturday's contest will be televised on ESPN with Bob Wischusen (PxP), Dan Orlovsky (analyst) and Allison Williams (sideline) on the call.
Fans can also listen to Tennessee's radio broadcast on the Vol Network (WIVK-FM 107.7) as well as satellite radio (XM Ch. 385, Internet Ch. 969). Bob Kesling (PxP), Tim Priest (analyst) and Brent Hubbs (analyst) will call the action all season long.
Need to Know
No Tennessee player has had more success against the Gators than Jauan Jennings. The redshirt senior wide receiver has caught eight passes for 172 yards and a touchdown in three games against Florida during his career and also threw a 58-yard touchdown pass on a trick play against the Gators as a freshman in 2015.
Arguably the most memorable performance of Jennings' career came in UT's 38-28 victory over Florida in Knoxville back in 2016, snapping a 11-game skid in the series. The Murfreesboro, Tenn., native made three catches for 111 yards, including a 67-yard go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Jennings has been Tennessee's biggest threat through the air this season with four touchdown catches already, which ranks second in the SEC. He needs one more touchdown catch to move into a tie for 10th on UT's career list and needs just one more catch to become the 22nd player in program history to record 100 receptions.
Special Teams Have Been Special
One of the Vols' biggest strengths this season have been on special teams. In last weekend's victory over Chattanooga, UT blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown, averaged 57 yards per punt and did not miss a field goal or extra point. In fact, junior kicker Brent Cimaglia has been perfect all season long, going 8-for-8 on field goals and 11-for-11 on extra points. The Nashville native is tied for first in the FBS in field goals made and field goal percentage while ranking ninth nationally in total points scored with 35. Cimaglia has now made his last 10 field goals and has hit seven of his last nine field goal attempts of 40 or more yards.
Behind 2018 freshman All-American Joe Doyle, UT ranks second nationally in net punting with a 49.3 average. The Vols rank fifth in the country in punt return average with 23.7 yards per return.
The Big Orange also are one of only three teams in the nation that have not allowed a single kickoff return yard this season, thanks in large part to the powerful leg of sophomore Paxton Brooks, who has recorded 17 touchbacks in 18 kickoffs this season. UT has only allowed two punt return yards this year as well.
After struggling to create many turnovers in the first two games of the season, Tennessee's defense stepped its game up in a big way last Saturday. The Vols forced five turnovers in a 45-0 rout of Chattanooga, including four interceptions by three different players.
Nigel Warrior recorded his second-career interception and recorded two tackles to earn a spot on the PFF College National Defensive Team of the Week. Freshman defensive back Kenney Solomon also made his first-career interception in the fourth quarter to thwart a Chattanooga drive deep in Tennessee territory and preserve the shutout.
Series History: Florida
Overall: Gators lead, 28-20
In Gainesville: Gators lead, 14-5
Saturday will mark the 49th meeting between the two SEC East rivals. Florida has won two straight in the series, including a lopsided victory in Knoxville last season. The last two times the Vols and Gators have squared off in Gainesville, the game has come down to the final play.
In 2017, the last time the two teams played in The Swamp, Feleipe Franks connected with Tyrie Cleveland on a 63-yard Hail Mary pass on the game's final play to earn a 26-20 victory. The Big Orange will be looking to snap a seven-game road losing streak to Florida and earn their first win in Gainesville since 2003.
Florida is off to a 3-0 start and enters this Saturday's contest ranked ninth in the AP Poll and eighth in the USA Today Coaches' Poll. Dan Mullen is in his second season as head coach of the program and boasts a 13-3 record since taking over.
The Gators outscored Kentucky 19-0 in the fourth quarter last Saturday to erase an 11-point deficit and defeat the Wildcats on the road. Backup quarterback Kyle Trask led the late comeback after starter Feleipe Franks had to leave the game with a gruesome ankle injury in the third quarter. Trask completed 9-of-13 passes for 126 yards and rushed for a touchdown while leading the Gators on three scoring drives.
Trask is expected to get the start under center this week as Franks looks to be out for the remainder of the season. In his six career games played, Trask has completed 17-of-40 passes for 328 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Van Jefferson has been Florida's top receiving threat this season with 12 catches for 201 yards and a touchdown, but the Gators like to spread the ball around. Four players have recorded eight or more catches and 99 or more receiving yards while six different players have caught a touchdown pass. On the ground, UF will rely heavily on senior running back Lamical Perine, who leads the team with 34 carries for 120 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, redshirt freshman linebacker David Reese leads the team with 23 tackles and redshirt senior defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga leads a talented defensive front with three sacks. Florida enters this Saturday's game with an FBS-leading 16 sacks. Junior Shawn Davis and freshman Kaiir Elan lead the Gators' secondary with two interceptions each.