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Tennessee Vs. Florida Preview: If Balance Still Matters, the Gators are in Trouble

A game that's significant again.
A game that's significant again.

Tennessee Volunteers vs. Florida Gators, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN

Nobody has any concrete reason to doubt the Tennessee passing game, ranked tops in the SEC so far this season, even if the opponents in that time frame are N.C. State and Georgia State. But it's the running game that worries all the experts, and it's understandable. After all, the Volunteers running games is all the way down at ... third in the league?

Listen, there's no point in arguing that Tennessee's passing game is not going to be the star of any game it's in this year, because that's simply not true. With Tyler Bray and Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson, any Tennessee coaching staff that didn't lean heavily on the aerial attack would be guilty of gross malpractice. But what's a little bit puzzling is this sense that Tennessee has suddenly become an Air Raid team at the very time that it's running game is showing the first signs of progress under Derek Dooley.

Florida's passing game, on the other hand, is everything people say about it and less. The Gators are 14th in passing in the SEC, which despite the "Year of the Quarterback" talk is still a pretty ground-oriented league this season. Jeff Driskel is pretty efficient, but Florida's passing game has so far has gained less on a per-game basis than the running game. That's going from a run-heavy attack to a team that's almost completely reliant on the ground game to score points.

Part of that is the quarterback situation, and part of that is the emergence of Mike Gillislee. The Florida running back is averaging almost 6.1 yards a carry and has all but one of the Gators' touchdowns this year, scoring two in each of the first two games. To say Florida needs Gillislee to do well in this game is to make one of the understatements of the year.

Count me as one of the people who still thinks that offensive balance matters. Not as much as the old guard thinks it does; trying to map out balance on a play-by-play or yard-by-yard basis is a pointless exercise. But the ability to do more than one thing well can keep a defense off-balance, and that can be enough to give a team an advantage in what otherwise appears to be a pretty even match-up. Tennessee can do one thing well and looks like it might be pretty good at another; that's enough for this week.

Tennessee 30, Florida 27