NCAAF · Fri (12/16) @ 11:35am ET
|Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, FL|
Our Pick: UFL Florida at 10.5 (-108). Enjoy a $1000 risk-free bet from BetMGM today!
The Third Saturday in September is here, so it is time for the latest edition of the Tennessee Volunteers-Florida Gators rivalry. While not the most well-known or talked about when it comes to college football rivalries, it is an old one dating back to 1916. It is also a rivalry that has been pretty one-sided this millennium.
Since 2000, Tennessee has only won four times (’01, ’03, ’04, and ’16). While the ’17 game was competitive, the last three have not been close at all. But the Volunteers seem different this year. New head coach Josh Heupel has them playing well. While Florida is also playing well, this could be the year Tennessee starts a streak of its own.
Success has been hard to come by for the Volunteers in recent years. It looked like the program might turn a corner after Jeremy Pruitt led them to an 8-5 record in his second season (2019). But a dismal 3-7 finish in 2020 led to his dismissal and the arrival of Josh Heupel. If he could replicate the explosive offense he had at UCF with the Vols, there was hope the team could at least be entertaining.
But it was not going to be easy. The team lost most of the talent it had. There certainly wasn’t much with the guys he inherited. But with a lot of help from the transfer portal, the roster began to show some promise.
So far, you could say that the offense is following through on that promise, at least from a statistical standpoint. It averages close to 43 points a game (T-16th in the nation), and the offense is almost perfectly balanced (218.7 yards rushing/game and 199.0 yards passing/game).
What will make them tough to defend against is their versatility. The Tennessee offense is not dependent on any one player for offensive production. Three guys have 100+ yards rushing so far. While they do not have a single receiver with over 100 yards, they have seven with 60+. Joe Milton III won the starting QB job but has had injury issues. Hendon Hector has started the last two games and played well. Florida can probably expect to see a lot of Hector.
Defensively, the unit had to be pretty much rebuilt under new defensive coordinator Tim Banks. So far, the unit has performed well. But they may look good on paper because two of their three opponents to date were poor teams (Bowling Green and Tennessee Tech). But in their loss to Pitt, the defense struggled against the pass.
Tennessee Vs. Florida Full Sportsbook Odds
The Gators had an uphill battle to fight coming into the 2021 college football season after losing a lot of key players from the 2020 squad to the NFL. But, so far, it appears as if head coach Dan Mullen has found a way to win. Florida is not throwing the ball all over the place as it did with Kyle Trask at QB last season. But the Gators are running the ball on everyone. Three games into the season, they have the No. 2 rushing attack in the nation (335.7 yards/game).
While that number may be a bit inflated since their first two opponents were soft (FAU and South Florid), they ran for 245 yards and four touchdowns against the mighty Alabama defense last week.
Defensively, the Gators were not a great unit in 2020, but they had a lot of talent return. So far, they are shaping up as one of the better defenses in the nation. While those stats are probably inflated from playing two easy opponents, they held Alabama to less than 100 yards on the ground and 331 yards of total offense.
The question is whether the offense can win throwing the ball if Tennessee’s fifth-ranked rushing defense can slow them down. They have shown some capability to do so, but not enough to think the Gators can rely on the passing attack to win the game.
Sports Betting Recommendation
How you bet on this game will depend on just how good you think Tennessee is. Yes, the offense is scoring points, but doing so against Bowling Green and Tennessee Tech is not exactly impressive. The one decent opponent they have played (Pitt) they lost. However, they were still good against the run versus the Panthers (96 total yards; 2.1 yards/carry).
But slowing the Pitt run game down is not the same as slowing down the Gators.
Tennessee is better than it has been in years, but do not count on them to give the Gators too much of a fight. Florida may try to take advantage of the Vols secondary, but they will likely do what they have done to everyone—run, run, and run some more.
Florida will win this game, but the hard part is judging whether they are going to cover the spread or not. Tennessee is not as good as they have looked, but Josh Heupel will figure out how to score some points. If you like taking risks, consider taking Tennessee and the points. As for the total, with the potential that both offenses have, the over looks like a good bet.