The Tennessee Volunteers play host to the Florida Gators on Saturday afternoon in a crucial SEC showdown from Neyland Stadium. The Volunteers come into this one with an unblemished record, sitting at 3-0, while the Gators have already experienced an up-and-down season, even though they're not even a month in. Last season, the Gators dominated at home, while they've won each of the last four meetings by double-digits and nine of the last ten overall. With everyone trying to catch Georgia in the SEC East, this is a crucial game for both sides.
Gators To Be Tested On The RoadFlorida started the season looking like they could be on their way to being the second team in the SEC East, but after taking down Utah, it hasn't been as smooth sailing the last few weeks. A loss to Kentucky in their SEC opener exposed some glaring weaknesses, while South Florida taking them to the wire last week has cast some doubt over what to expect out of the Gators this season. Now having to go on the road to a rival, things might get worse before they get better for this group. One key is the Gators have dominated this series over the last handful of years and with confidence sky-high when it comes to meetings between the two teams, they'll look to grab the win.
Florida does have a few injuries that they'll need to navigate in this, on both sides of the ball. David Conner (thumb) is questionable on the offensive line, while Arlis Boardingham (upper body) is in the same boat. On the defensive front, Ventrell Miller (lower body) and Jaydon Hill (knee) are questionable as well.
The offense has sputtered to open the year and considering the points they may need to put up on the road in this one, there are definite concerns. Anthony Richardson has been slow out of the gates and with the Gators ranked 121st nationally in passing, there are concerns about how they might move the ball in this one. Controlling the game on the ground has been their key so far this season and if they have to get into a passing face-off, it could be a challenge.
Defensively, the Gators have struggled as well. They have been strong in slowing down opponents through the air but as Kentucky showed just a few weeks ago, moving the ball on the ground isn't an issue. If this group can't get off the field, especially on the road, it could spell a long day against their conference rival. Trey Dean III (30 tackles) is one of the SEC's most imposing safeties and if he can set the tone and keep the secondary in order, they could find success against the Volunteers.
Volunteers Off To Hot StartMomentum has been building for a few years towards Tennessee trying to re-emerge in the SEC and 2022 could be the season. The Volunteers are undefeated on the season so far and with a win against Pittsburgh, they've shown they can find success against some quality opponents. The obvious concern is how Tennessee has fared against their rivalries of late and if they can buck that trend. Having only won once in their last ten meetings, doubt could set in quickly if they are unable to get off to a fast start in this one. The hope is that the home crowd can make a difference for them on Saturday.
The Volunteers have some of their own injury woes to navigate as well. Len Neth Whitehead (upper body) has already been ruled out for the season, while William Mohan continues to serve a suspension. In addition, a pair of pass-catchers in Cedric Tillman (lower body) and Miles Campbell (undisclosed) are questionable and Tillman especially is one player to keep an eye on.
Tennessee has one of the nation's most electric offenses and with how strong they've played this season, they'll like their chances to outpace Florida. The Volunteers rank third nationally in total offense and fourth in scoring offense. Florida has a strong secondary, but it might not be a match for Tennessee, which has the nation's fifth-best passing attack. Hendon Hooker has been elite, tossing six touchdowns through three games and failing to turn the ball over. Add in his ability on the ground as well, and this offense should continue to roll.
Tennessee's defense hasn't been elite, though they'll like their chances to slow down the Gators in this one. Controlling opponents on the ground has been key to their success and if they can force the Gators into trying to find success through the air, there's a good chance that they leave Saturday 4-0 on the season. Aaron Beasley (22 tackles) has been strong in the middle and his ability to dictate the defense in spying Richardson in the backfield, will be the difference in this one.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
The Volunteers won't have any issues snapping out of their losing skid to the Gators. While being at home should be a huge advantage itself, this is a perfect matchup for the Volunteers. Hooker is an elite QB and the depth of the offense will give Florida fits. The Gators have struggled on the offensive end of things and until they find some consistency through the air, it's difficult to imagine a situation where they come out with a strong performance. Additionally, according to covers.com, Florida is 0-7 ATS in their last seven games following an ATS loss, is 0-5 ATS in their last five SEC games, and is 0-8 ATS in their last eight road games.
Full-Game Total Pick
Tennessee will set the tone being at home and there's little doubt that they'll be moving the ball with ease against Florida. They have the talent and experience to navigate things through the air and on the ground, leaving the Gators trying to keep pace. It can't be forgotten that Florida has some of their own explosive magic waiting in the wings and they're primed for a breakout on a few plays in this one. Neither defense is going to stand in each other's way either, meaning a high-scoring affair in this SEC tilt. Additionally, according to covers.com, for Tennessee, the over is 4-0 in their last four conference games, 5-0 in their last five home games, and 8-1 in their last nine games overall.