KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s early results suggest its defense improved significantly since the start of the season, but the level of competition makes it tough to gauge just how far the Volunteers have come.

A better test comes Saturday when the 23rd-ranked Volunteers (2-0) are scheduled to visit No. 24 Florida (0-1) in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams, assuming the weather cooperates. Hurricane Irma’s path through north Florida as a tropical storm has led to speculation the game could be rescheduled or moved, though Tennessee coach Butch Jones said Monday that “we fully anticipate playing the game in Gainesville.”

“Now that the storm has passed through Gainesville, the University of Florida is working with local authorities to assess the effect of the storm on the campus and the Gainesville community, at the same time ensuring the appropriate security and local officials are available to host a game,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement.

Whenever or wherever the game gets played, it should give the Vols a better idea of where they stand defensively.

Tennessee (2-0) opened the season with a 42-41 double-overtime victory over Georgia Tech in which it allowed 535 yards rushing, the highest single-game total the Vols had ever allowed. That defense fared much better against a much weaker opponent in a 42-7 triumph over Football Championship Subdivision program Indiana State.

“There’s a lot that we need to get better at,” Jones said, “but I do think we showed some progress from week one to week two.”

The progress was most evident in third-down situations. Georgia Tech was 13 of 18 on third-down conversions. Indiana State didn’t convert any of its 11 third-down attempts.

Yet the Vols’ pass defense remains very much a mystery, in part because of who they’ve faced thus far.

Georgia Tech attempted just 10 passes against Tennessee. The Vols had no trouble slowing down an Indiana State offense that has completed just 42.1 percent of its pass attempts this season.

Plenty of questions also surround Florida’s offense. Florida opened the season with a 33-17 loss to No. 7 Michigan in which the Gators’ only two touchdowns came on interception returns. Florida’s scheduled game with FCS program Northern Colorado last week was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma.

The Gators currently have nine players suspended indefinitely for their roles in an alleged credit card fraud scheme. The list of suspended players includes Florida’s leading rusher (Jordan Scarlett) and receiver (Antonio Callaway) from last season.

Even if those players don’t return for the Tennessee game, Jones believes Florida’s offense has a “lot of playmakers.”

“As a football coach, you’re sitting there and you’re studying the video and you watch them offensively and they’re a play away,” Jones said. “Offensive football is all about 11 individuals working as one, and I think it was a typical first game. You can look and say they have the ability to be explosive. They can put points on the board.”

Defensive tackle Kendal Vickers said the size of Florida’s offensive line provides a challenge.

“They’re going to come out physical,” Vickers said, “and we’ve got to do the same thing as well.”

That’s a common theme for Tennessee this week. Jones said Tennessee tackled much better against Indiana State than in the Georgia Tech game, but he emphasized that the Vols must play more physically on both sides of the ball.

Tennessee believes its defense improved against Indiana State, but it still has a long way to go.

“It’s the real season now,” defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie said after the Indiana State game. “It’s time to get going. It’s time for our SEC rivals.”

NOTES: Jones said wide receivers Tyler Byrd, Josh Smith and Latrell Williams are expected to return this week after missing the Indiana State game with injuries. Smith hasn’t played this season due to a sprained AC joint. Jones said safety/kick returner Evan Berry, cornerback Baylen Buchanan, linebacker Austin Smith, offensive tackle Marcus Tatum and tight end Eli Wolf are questionable.


More AP college football: http://collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25


Follow Steve Megargee at www.twitter.com/stevemegargee