Not many people are predicting that the Florida Gators will beat Tennessee on Saturday. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives the Vols an 87.4% chance to win while sportsbooks have UT listed as a 10.5-point favorite over UF. It’s honestly kind of scary how much analysts love the Big Orange in this matchup.

But, for the few folks who believe the Gators will come to Neyland Stadium and walk away victorious (mostly Florida fans), the thing I’ve noticed that they cite the most as proof of Florida’s superiority, is last year’s UT-UF game. In 2021, the Gators somewhat easily disposed of Josh Heupel’s first-year squad. The two teams were only separated by 3 points at halftime but Florida ultimately won 38-14. It was Tennessee’s single worst offensive showing of the season.

To some extent, pointing to last year’s failure might make sense, UF shut down Heupel’s insane offense for a large portion of the contest. But if I can get candid with the Florida fans for just a second here: I wouldn’t put too much hope in having a repeat of the 2021 game this week.

Looking beyond the fact that Florida seems to not be nearly as good as they were a year ago, when you look at the film from the 2021 game, things aren’t as simple as “Florida shut down Tennessee.” A to Z Sports film analyst, James Foster, explains nicely in his newest video why it wasn’t that cut and dry…

So, while the Florida game appears to be quarterback Hendon Hooker’s worst game of last season, Hooker was hindered by big drops from his receivers and subpar protection from his offensive line. In totality, he only made a small number of truly bad plays.

Now, with a full year of additional work under his belt and an overall better team around him, Hooker is set to have a much better performance in 2022. The offensive line is stronger. Players such as wide receivers Jalin Hyatt and Bru McCoy provide new weapons for Hooker to work with. And if the first three games of the current season can be trusted, the Vols’ defense has vastly improved. Oh, and let’s not forget that this game will be in Neyland Stadium and the atmosphere will be absolutely raucous in Tennessee’s favor.

Simply put, if you think this year’s game between the Vols and Gators will work out exactly as it did a year ago, you may be in for a rude awakening on Saturday. A lot is working in UT’s favor this week, let’s just hope Coach Heupel and his team take full advantage.

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Featured image via Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC