It’s been rare the last few years that the showdown between the Florida Gators and Tennessee Volunteers has received this much hype before the season. Sure, it’s happened before — basically once every four years when Tennessee is supposed to be “back” — but UF-UT has fallen further behind the annual Georgia and Florida State games in terms of anticipation for those that follow Florida.
Not in 2016.
Gators-Vols has received all the offseason hype the rivalry once deserved. With Tennessee a preseason top 10 team in the nation poised, according to national media members, to finally end its losing streak to Florida, that hype has mostly surrounded the Vols. The Gators have made waves with some uncommon pre-game trash talk, most notably coming from junior cornerback Jalen Tabor, so Florida certainly has to try and cash some checks that Tabor’s mouth wrote.
Even so, the 2016 incarnation of the game has taken a bit of a blow due to injury.
The Gators will be without redshirt sophomore starting quarterback Luke Del Rio, who reportedly suffered a sprained MCL following a questionable hit last Saturday and will miss a couple weeks. Sophomore right guard Tyler Jordan will also be out as he deals with an eye problem stemming from surgery he had last season. Most expect sophomore wide receiver Antonio Callaway to be active for the game, but he’s dealing with a quadriceps contusion that had him noticeably hobbled for the last week.
The Vols will be missing two of their best defenders in linebacker Darrin Kirkland and No. 1 cornerback Cameron Sutton, who are both dealing with ankle injuries. Joining Sutton on the injury list last week were linebackers Quart’e Sapp (ACL) and Jalen Reeves-Maybin (shoulder), though Tennessee expects Reeves-Maybin to go while Sapp, a reserve, has been lost for the season.
What makes this particularly interesting is that the respective injuries will all affect the game when the Gators are on offense and Vols on defense. Florida and Tennessee should be full-strength when the roles are flipped with UT quarterback Joshua Dobbs going up against a UF unit ranked No. 1 nationally in total defense and scoring defense, due in large part to the quality of opponents its played to this point.