The Power Play

I can hear the music now. Cue the death march. In other words, it’s UT/Florida week.The date has been circled on many college football calendars since Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin basically called Florida head coach Urban Meyer a cheater.

At that point, all bets were off. What we have here is the potential for an embarrassing Saturday for the Orange Nation.

Forget that Florida copped out by scheduling Charleston Southern as their opener. Forget that they “warmed up” for UT by taking Troy to the woodshed. It won’t matter.

Sure, Tennessee tore Western Kentucky apart, but the efforts of Jonathan Crompton against a very mediocre UCLA team did nothing to show any progress from last season.

In fact, the passing game may have regressed, something that I’m not sure was possible after seeing the stagnant Volunteer offense in 2008.

Western Kentucky did nothing to force Crompton to make a quick decision. UCLA did. They got pressure on him, sometimes with as little as a four-man front.

Florida will surely give him some exotic looks and defensive setups that he will not be comfortable looking into. And they will pressure him. They’ll pressure him over and over. They’ll put more heat on him than a baking oven. And he probably won’t handle it well.

Forget that the talented Tennessee running back corps (which may be the only overall position that Tennessee has an edge over the Gators) is touted to be the best this decade.

It won’t matter. Although five of the last seven meetings have been won by the team that rushed for more yards, all of those were Gator wins except for the 2004 outcome.

None of that matters now. Florida has all the ammunition it needs to take Tennessee by the neck and throw the Vols around like a rag doll.

And UT fans would surely love to see Eric Berry lay Tim Tebow out. Problem is, Tebow is a glutton for punishment, and he’s not stupid. He can take big hits with the best of them, so it’s hard to say how the first Berry/Tebow collision will play out.

For Tennessee to come out of the Swamp with a win, three things have to happen. First, the running game must control everything. Time of possession will be key, as keeping the Gator attack on the sidelines is a must.

Second, the defense will have to put up an all-world effort. Monte Kiffin is one of the best defensive minds in the game, so he will put something together to try to combat the Florida offense. But the players can’t make mistakes, or Tebow will pick them apart.

Third, Crompton will have to play the game of his life. And that may be throwing a bare minimum of passes, preferably zero. As one UT fan told me Saturday, no Crompton pass is a good pass.

In short, this could get ugly. And Urban Meyer won’t care about being a good sport, either.

The starters will be out there long enough to send the message to Kiffin. It’ll be a cold moment at midfield when they shake hands afterwards, too.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Tennessee comes out like a team with a chip on its shoulder and really takes it to the Gators. Maybe they give Florida a run and keep things close.

But just in case I’m right, I’m going to hide the women and children. And maybe find something else to watch, because September 19, 2009 could be known as The Chomp in the Swamp. I’m afraid to look.

Also, we’ll get a better idea this weekend of which NFL teams are going to make noise this year.

The first week rarely tells us anything, unless a team suffers a major injury, such as the Patriots did with Tom Brady last year.

With that said, the Eagles may be fine, if Donovan McNabb plays. The Bears, after losing Brian Urlacher, might not be so lucky.

In any event, football is back in full swing. It’s a beautiful thing. Enjoy the weekend, because it will be an interesting one. Tennessee fans, pray that it doesn’t get nasty. I know I will.