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The key to Florida Gators upsetting Tennessee this weekend

Our weekly gameday guide also spotlights a Hillsborough County product at FSU and looks at USF’s road trip.
Florida lineman Gervon Dexter and the rest of the Gators' defense will have to adjust to Tennessee's lightning-quick pace this weekend.
Florida lineman Gervon Dexter and the rest of the Gators' defense will have to adjust to Tennessee's lightning-quick pace this weekend. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Published Sep. 23

No. 20 Florida’s chances at No. 11 Tennessee hinge on which Gators defense shows up: the one that played well early against Utah and for four quarters against Kentucky or the one that USF gashed last week. Josh Heupel’s lightning-quick offense will gas defenses, so it’s critical that Florida finds some depth and communicates well to avoid falling into a big deficit at Neyland Stadium.

Related: SEC, save the Florida Gators vs. Tennessee football rivalry

Viewing guide

Lamest time window: None. It’s a deep, intriguing slate across the day.

Noon: No. 5 Clemson should be on upset watch at No. 21 Wake Forest (ABC), though it shouldn’t qualify as much of an upset. Keep an eye, too, on USF at a vulnerable Louisville team (ESPN3).

3:30: No. 20 Florida at No. 11 Tennessee is the easy pick, but it’ll be nice to see how 3-0 Minnesota looks in its first test, at Michigan State (Big Ten Network).

Related: Why haven’t the Florida Gators thrown a touchdown pass yet?

4: We’ll see whether undefeated Washington State is legitimate with a visit from No. 15 Oregon (Fox).

7: Jimbo Fisher’s No. 23 Aggies will try to build on their win over Miami by topping No. 10 Arkansas (ESPN).

7:30: Wisconsin’s top-10 scoring defense faces No. 2 Ohio State’s top-10 scoring offense (ABC).

8: Kansas State goes for its third win in the last four meetings against No. 6 Oklahoma (Fox).

9:30: If you can find the Pac-12 Network, No. 7 USC at unbeaten Oregon State is a fine late-night selection.

Stuck behind Middle

The Miami Hurricanes and Tyler Van Dyke couldn't get past Texas A&M last week but shouldn't have an issue against Middle Tennessee State.
The Miami Hurricanes and Tyler Van Dyke couldn't get past Texas A&M last week but shouldn't have an issue against Middle Tennessee State. [ AL DIAZ/ADIAZ@MIAMIHERALD.COM | Miami Herald ]

If No. 25 Miami cruises past Middle Tennessee State as expected, it will end the Hurricanes’ drought against the mighty Blue Raiders. Miami is 0-2 in the series. Minor detail: The teams last played in 1932, a 7-0 home loss by the ‘Canes.

The word on Ward

Florida State running back Treshaun Ward has helped carry the Seminoles to a perfect start.
Florida State running back Treshaun Ward has helped carry the Seminoles to a perfect start. [ GERALD HERBERT | AP ]

Florida State running back Treshaun Ward has fueled the Seminoles’ 3-0 start. The Tampa Bay Tech alumnus’ 100.7 rushing yards per game are tied for most in the ACC, and he has two of the league’s top six rushing performances this season (127 vs. Duquesne and 126 at Louisville). He should have another big game against a Boston College defense that gave up 5 yards per carry in its season-opening loss to Rutgers.

Related: The rise and fall of FSU football, as seen through Louisville

USF, on the road again

USF quarterback Gerry Bohanon nearly knocked off Florida last week. Can he lead the Bulls past Louisville this week?
USF quarterback Gerry Bohanon nearly knocked off Florida last week. Can he lead the Bulls past Louisville this week? [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

The Bulls can prove they turned a corner last week at Florida with a good showing at Louisville. The Cardinals could be shaky after the close loss to Florida State. If USF plays the way it did in Gainesville, the Bulls have a serious shot at their first road win since 2019 (over East Carolina) and first non-conference road win since Oct. 6, 2018 at UMass.

Related: Did USF turn a corner in tight loss to Gators? More tests await

Local of the week

UCF wide receiver Xavier Townsend has already made an impact, early in his college career.
UCF wide receiver Xavier Townsend has already made an impact, early in his college career. [ DOUG MURRAY | AP ]

UCF receiver Xavier Townsend (Berkeley Prep)

The true freshman is already the Knights’ third-leading receiver (nine catches) and ranks third in the AAC with 10.5 yards per punt return. Don’t be surprised if he breaks off a big play or two against a reeling Georgia Tech team that’s 116th in special teams, according to ESPN’s SP+ advanced metrics.

By the numbers: Week 4

USF's Brian Battie ranks among the nation's top running backs.
USF's Brian Battie ranks among the nation's top running backs. [ JOHN RAOUX | AP ]

9.96 — Yards per carry by USF’s Brian Battie (fourth nationally)

3 — Teams without a touchdown pass: Florida, USF and Hawaii

Related: How much will USF’s on-campus football stadium cost? Here’s a glimpse.

8 — Tackles for loss allowed by USF and Florida, who are tied with Purdue for sixth nationally

101 — Snaps played by Duke defensive end Anthony Nelson (Jesuit High) during the Blue Devils’ 3-0 start

1 — Undefeated team left in the state: the Seminoles. It’s the 10th time since 1993 FSU has been the last one standing

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