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Gary Shelton’s predictions: Tennessee should end 10-year streak

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Is the University of Florida defense good enough to be an equalizer?

We may see Saturday, when the Gators play host to the University of Tennessee Vols, who hope a potent offense can be enough to put enough points on the boards to end a 10-game losing streak.

All along, Florida has looked to be a more experienced, more cohesive defense to be the difference maker, as it was in last week’s 14-9 victory over Kentucky. The Gators, with Vernon Hargreaves in the secondary and Jon Bullard, Alex McCalister and Bryan Cox Jr. upfront, hope to shut down the Vols efficiently enough to buy time for Will Grier, Kelvin Taylor and the rest of the Florida offense.

For that to happen, the Gators have to be suffocating defensively against Vols’ quarterback Joshua Dobbs. And Grier, who will play as long as he is healthy with Treon Harris suspended, has to make a couple of plays.

Stopping Tennessee is a lot to ask with receivers Preston Williams and Josh Malone and running back Jalen Hurd.

This week, I think Florida stubs its toe.

Tennessee 23, Florida 17

Florida’s old ball coach, meanwhile, will be playing a smaller school from the state when it takes on UCF. Now, the last couple of seasons, that might have been a challenge for Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks, but UCF has been dreadful, losing all three of its games, including one to tiny Furman. The Knights are still without most of their weapons, which means that first-time starter Lorenzo Nunez has a chance for a nice debut.

South Carolina 26, UCF 10

Louisiana Tech has lost two games close, one of them in triple overtime to Kansas State, so don’t be fooled by its 1-2 record. Tech was pretty good last year, and with Florida transfer Jeff Driskel at quarterback, should have enough to get past FIU. Alex McGough’s arm gives the Panthers their best shot.

Louisiana Tech 20, FIU 14

Right about now, FAU needs an opponent it can beat. The Owls lost badly to Buffalo last week to fall to 0-3, and no one is sure if quarterback Jaquez Johnson will return. This week, it shouldn’t matter. FAU plays Charlotte, a team that gave up 73 points and 695 yards to Middle Tennessee last week. One concern: FAU has given up 124 points in three games. Still, this should be FAU’s first win.

FAU 30, Charlotte 14

The NFL

The desperate Houston Texans have one of the NFL’s best defenses, starring J.J. Watt, which means Jameis Winston won’t have much time and Doug Martin won’t have much space. The Bucs can stay close for a while against a limited Texans’ offense, but the Houston defense should make the difference.

Houston 23, Tampa Bay 14

I’m not sure if Rex Ryan’s bluster will pay off in the long run, but it should be enough to hold off Miami.

Bills 20, Dolphins 17

The Jags are coming off an impressive victory over the Dolphins, but the Patriots are in a whole new league.

Patriots 24, Jaguars 17

Last week: 6-3.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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