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Tennessee Volunteers at Florida Gators: Preview and Pick
Tennessee Volunteers at Florida Gators: Preview and Pick
The Florida Gators are a very talented football team, but after taking an upset loss against the Miami Hurricanes, they realize they have to win out if the hope to have a shot at the SEC Championship game. Standing in their way this week is the Tennessee Volunteers.
Tennessee Volunteers at Florida Gators Odds
The college football odds posted this game shows that the Gators are double digit favorites with the opening line posted at (-14.5) for the Gators. The betting action by the public is split down the middle for this game with the sports betting consensus revealing that just 51 percent of the wagering is on the Gators. Despite the even betting action, the line has dipped and it can be found at (-14) at several at the top rated sportsbooks.
The Gators had a bye week to prepare for this game and attempt to get over the tough loss to the Hurricanes. Meanwhile the Volunteers come into this game limping after a beat down at the hands of the Oregon Ducks.
For the Gators the concerns are injuries. Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel suffered a slight knee sprain in the second quarter of Saturday’s loss to Miami but is expected to suit up and start against Tennessee on Sept. 21, the school announced. The Gators will need him under center if they want to win this game.
The Vols are off a bad loss, but are also dealing with the scrutiny of the NCAA as they are being looked at closely. Tennessee was without defensive lineman Maurice Couch, who was ruled ineligible for the game while the university investigates allegations he received improper benefits. If a report by Yahoo Sports is correct this could be a big problem for the Vols.
The college football betting trends for this game favor the Florid Gators in this pivotal SEC matchup.
The Volunteers are 2-7 against the spread (ATS) in their last nine games following a straight up loss of more than 20 points, 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games after allowing more than 200 yards rushing in their previous game and 4-11-1 ATS in their last 16 conference games.
The Gators are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 home games against a team with a winning road record, 9-2-1 ATS in the last 12 games in September and 6-1 ATS in the last seven games following a bye week.
Tennessee Volunteers at Florida Gators Pick
With plenty of time before kickoff we will wait for more information to come in before we select a side on this contest. Make sure to check back on the day of the game to see who we select as our winner for this big game.
Tennessee hasn't defeated Florida since 2004, so you can understand why first-year Vols coach Butch Jones wants to put the losing streak to rest. "Our players understand the rivalry, what is at stake," Jones said. "I think they understand what has gone on before them. The only thing we can control is our preparation and how we play on Saturday."
Florida has beaten Tennessee eight consecutive times, which represents the Gators' longest winning streak in the 42-game history of the series. The No. 19 Gators try to continue their recent mastery of this rivalry Saturday at The Swamp.
The Vols (2-1) haven't come particularly close to ending the streak recently. The Gators squeaked past the Vols 21-20 in their 2006 national championship season, but the last six Florida-Tennessee games had an average margin of 19 points, with each of them being decided by double digits.
Tennessee, playing its SEC opener, also has lost its last 17 games against ranked opponents. The Vols are 1-23 versus Top 25 teams since 2008.
Jones knows all about the frustrations against the Gators (1-1), and he's challenging his team to make sure the Vols enter Gainesville in the right frame of mind. "Right now, moving forward, we are not a very mentally tough football team," Jones said. "Everything we do in our football program is about mental conditioning, mental toughness, and when you go on the road you have to have a road focus about yourself."
Tennessee is coming off a 59-14 loss at No. 2 Oregon that represented the Vols' worst varsity defeat since 1910.
"We talked to the whole team [to] keep your head up," Tennessee offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James said. "This is Florida week. This is one of the most important weeks. It's SEC time."
Florida expects to get Tennessee's best shot. That's the nature of this rivalry. "We know those guys are going to come down ready to throw some punches," Florida cornerback Jaylen Watkins said. "We've beaten them [eight] times in a row. Obviously they see that and they want to get one on us."
As it turns out, dancing isn’t the only talent Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley can boast of in addition to football. He can sing, too. When asked what his feelings are about “Rocky Top,” an American bluegrass song that has been played by the University of Tennessee’s marching band since the early 1970s, Easley responded by saying he isn’t a fan. “Do you listen to it?” Easley said. “How do you feel about it? There you go.”
Despite his lack of affection for the song, Easley admitted he sometimes sings it while playing against the Volunteers. He will have his final chance to hear it played when Florida faces Tennessee at 3:30 p.m. Saturday (CBS) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. “Something gets so annoying, you gotta make the best out of it,” Easley said. “I don’t know if (opponents) consider it a taunt, but I just do it for my own enjoyment.”
Easley and the Gators’ defensive line will have their hands full against the Volunteers. Through three games this season, Tennessee has allowed just two sacks — tied for the fewest in the Southeastern Conference.
“This will be the best offensive line we will face this year,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. “Our guys felt that way last year after we played them.”
Easley totaled one tackle and two quarterback hurries during Florida’s 37-20 win over Tennessee in Knoxville last season. In 2013, the senior defensive tackle has four tackles, two of which have gone for a loss, and three quarterback hurries.
Florida is first in the SEC in total defense, allowing 208.5 yards per game this season.
“Our goal is not to let an offense score, period,” Easley said. “Once we manage to get that stat, we could say we have one of the best defenses.”
Florida mostly healthy: UF junior quarterback Jeff Driskel spent time on crutches during UF’s bye week after suffering a sprained left knee in the second quarter of a 21-16 loss at Miami on Sept. 7.
On Monday, Driskel walked without a limp and said he was feeling fine. “It got high-lowed, got stuck in the ground a little bit,” Driskel said. “It could have been a lot worse, so that’s the good news. It’s feeling a lot better now, and I’ll be ready to go (against Tennessee).”
Driskel finished the game against the Hurricanes, throwing for a career-high 291 yards on 22-of-33 passing.
Sophomore running back Matt Jones, who missed all of training camp and Florida’s season opener against Toledo due to a viral infection, made his season debut against Miami, rushing 18 times for 47 yards and fumbling once.
Jones said he was less than 100 percent against the Hurricanes and felt some discomfort after missing an extended period of time. He expects a better performance against Tennessee after enjoying an extra week to fully recover.
“Monday through Friday was the best practice I’ve had so far,” Jones said.
Muschamp said cornerback Marcus Roberson (knee) and right guard Jon Halapio (pectoral muscle) should be fine for Tennessee. Right Tackle Tyler Moore (ankle) is expected to practice Tuesday or Wednesday.
For the first time in what seems like forever, the Tennessee Volunteers will head into their game against the Florida Gators with a fanbase that has realistic hopes of seeing their team walk away victorious.
Of course, this topic may have been a bit juicier before last weekend, when Butch Jones' team walked into Autzen Stadium and then walked out with a nosebleed and a 59-14 defeat.
But while plenty of questions still surround the Volunteers, this game may be about the Florida Gators more than anything else.
Will Muschamp's team is averaging just 20 points per game, good for 100th in the nation. While the defense is playing as advertised, you can't win very many games when you don't score.
Currently, the spread is Florida by 17 points. So can the Volunteers somehow end their eight-game losing streak against the Gators?
The answer is going to depend largely upon what kind of play they get out of their quarterback, whether it's Justin Worley or backup Nathan Peterman.
Worley started out strong but failed to develop any sort of rhythm against the Ducks, even after he led his team down the field for a touchdown on their second drive of the game. His pass to Jason Croom in the corner of the end zone had both velocity and accuracy, and it showed that his potential, however fleeting it may be, is there.
You can't expect to see the Volunteers get much going on the ground in this one. Marlin Lane and Rajion Neal are a solid duo, but neither back was able to much going in Eugene. Give credit to the Ducks' defensive line, too, but Florida may boast the top unit in the country.
This is the same unit that held super sophomore Duke Johnson of Miami to just 59 yards on 21 carries.
For the Gators, the storyline is very much the same, and it surrounds the quarterback situation. Jeff Driskel has already proven to be in a class above Worley, but he makes too many mistakes to be considered a dependable player. He's thrown just two touchdowns this season to go along with two interceptions.
One thing you admire in watching Driskel is his toughness. Can you ever recall a quarterback who had no qualms about sitting in the pocket and delivering a ball as a lineman was bearing down, ready to smash him into the ground?
The problem is that more often than not, those throws are off target.
So again, who has the upper hand here? It almost seems easier to make a case for why each team won't be able to pull this one out.
But if we're looking at positives, start with the Florida defense, which is going to keep the team in every game it plays this season.
Vernon Hargreaves III has already become a big-time playmaker in the secondary. The true freshman picked up his first interception in the opening game against Toledo, and Tennessee didn't fare too well against another top corner last weekend in Ifo Ekpre-Olomu of Oregon.
We already mentioned that the defensive line, led by Dominique Easley, is among the best units in the country. So while the Gators may continue to struggle on offense, the Volunteers' struggles may be even greater.
The short answer to the question posed in the headline is no, the new-look Vols won't be able to end the eight-game losing streak to Florida.
The only "new look" about them is the head coach, and despite Jones' success on the recruiting trail, his team just hasn't developed its young talent enough to beat the Gators.
Will the Volunteers end their eight-game losing streak to the Gators?
The operative word there is "young," which signals that if Jones and his staff can develop these kids correctly, business will be booming once again in Knoxville.
If you're a Florida fan, you know that your team isn't going to match what the Ducks did last weekend. But this is the kind of game where you want to see some consistency from the offense if you want your team to hang with Georgia and South Carolina.
The Volunteers will see the streak go to nine games Saturday, but a word of caution to Driskel and company: Careless mistakes can and will keep this one close, and the last things you want to give an underdog are hope and a chance to win it at the end.
Will Muschamp and Butch Jones are still working things out, trying to put their watermark on storied football programs whose large, vocal fan bases expect and demand success and not just getting to a bowl game every year success – championship success. Both teams are attempting to rebound from bitter defeats (Muschamp and Florida lost to Miami two weeks ago while Jones and Tennessee had a trip to Oregon they would rather forget) and both teams need to win this game Saturday (3:30 p.m., Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, CBS TV) to inject a bit of sanity back into their fans.
Jones is the fourth Tennessee head coach in the last 6 years (fifth if you count Jim Chaney, who was named interim head coach for one game in 2012 after Derek Dooley’s dismissal). Jones has inherited a program once again in transition and there has been no continuity in philosophies.
Jones promises to bring to Tennessee what appears to be a “hybrid” spread offense that will rely on running and establishing itself in the trenches first. The Vols have a dual-threat quarterback in junior Justin Worley, who has started all three games but he has struggled running the spread and read options that are the bread and butter plays of this offense. Jones declared the quarterback race wide open again but smart money says Worley starts and will get the majority of the snaps over freshmen Riley Ferguson, Josh Dobbs and Nathan Peterman. All three of the freshmen are very athletic but they are also completely unproven commodities and The Swamp is a place where unproven quarterbacks get their careers off to very bad starts.
In order for Jones to sell this spread offense that is supposed to also feature a physical downhill running game, he has to have the personnel to make it work. It all starts at quarterback and right now that doesn’t appear to be either a position of strength or confidence.
Quarterback isn’t the only place where the Vols have to rebuild. This season whoever is at quarterback operates behind an offensive line that is one of the best in the SEC but all five starters will graduate so next year’s QB will be operating behind five newbies. In the SEC, those all new offensive lines tend to get chewed up by the huge, athletic defensive lines. Another problem is at running back where Rajion Neal is a talented senior backed up by junior Marlon Lane. You better have two or three capable running backs if you want to survive SEC defenses.
Suffice to say, Jones has a lot of rebuilding to do. He has recruited very well in his short tenure and for the moment, Tennessee fans seem to believe even though last Saturday’s shellacking at Oregon re-calibrated expectations for this year’s team. Still, a win in Gainesville would certainly change perceptions for the creamsicle-clad faithful. Tennessee has dropped eight straight to Florida and this UF team suddenly looks vulnerable and beatable. With the brutal SEC schedule that awaits, Butch Jones knows what a confidence boost a win over Florida would bring.
Butch might very well end up being a great coach at UT, but fans better be patient. Heaven knows they will wait almost decades for a dentist appointment or weeks for the Piggly Wiggly to bring in a fresh shipment of moon pies or smoked possum jerky (Teriyaki flavor -it‘s the Volunteer State‘s preferred pan-Asian cuisine) but patience and football are not long suits for Vol fans and a schedule that promises more than a few losses will make the natives restless.
It raises the question: Will LuLu and Junior still love Butch in November?
Since we’re on the subject of patience, there’s not a ton of that to be spread around in Gainesville, either.
Muschamp was greeted by a decent amount of goodwill upon his hire and to his credit he survived a rookie season with Charlie Weis (not going to make the obvious fat joke here) as his offensive coordinator. He solved the Weis problem (Charlie is now the problem at Kansas) and he’s put together consecutive strong recruiting classes. Weis was replaced by the innovative Brent Pease. Instead of the expected eight wins in 2012, Muschamp delivered 11 against one of the nation’s tougher schedules.
But since those 11 regular season wins in 2012, the Gators haven’t exactly burned it up. They got hosed by Louisville in the Sugar Bowl and they’re off to a 1-1 start this year, not exactly the kind of things that buy a lot of patience and good will from a fan base that is only five years removed from a national championship.
What has tested the patience of the fans is the way the Gators looked disinterested and ill-prepared against Louisville and the way they played so poorly in game two against Miami. In both those losses, Florida had superior personnel.
If you forget the Louisville game and chalk that up to a BCS bowl for a team that started the season off the national radar and won with defense and a shaky offense that barely put up enough points to win, you still have a hard time explaining what has gone on this year.
There was the win over Toledo. The ball wasn’t exactly flying around the yard and the scoreboard was nowhere near malfunction from all the points being scored. Most fans tried to peg the lack of points to a vanilla approach by Pease, thinking the coaches wanted to play it close to the vest to avoid tipping off Miami’s coaches.
Further, although the Gators’ offense showed a knack for scoring in clutch situations and putting enough points on the board in all but 2 occasions to win, it ranked near the bottom of almost every passing category amongst FBS schools. This is not the offense Gator fans were expecting with the Brent Pease hire.
Entering the 2013 season, following a rather lackluster Orange & Blue game, Gator fans were still anxious about what kind of offense they’d see. Although Florida won its home opener convincingly against Toledo, the ball wasn’t exactly flying around the yard and the scoreboard was nowhere near any sort of malfunction.
Most Gator fans wrote the performance off to vanilla play calling, thinking the coaches wanted to play it close to the vest so as to keep Miami on their toes. The offense opened up against Miami, but the Gators turned the ball over five times and struggled in the red zone, losing a game that most Gator fans had circled as a win on their schedules.
Enter the “noise in the system,” a phrase with which Gator fans are bitterly familiar.
The Florida Gators have had big problems on offense this year but the defense is just fine. The Vols have problems on both sides of the ball as well as off the field with the recent stories about "side money". This game is usually close, but not this year.