No. 19 Florida Gators (3-0 SU, 1-2 ATS) vs. No. 14 Tennessee Volunteers (3-0 SU, 1-2 ATS)
College Football Week 4
Date/Time: Saturday, September 24th,, 3:30PM (EST)
Where: Neyland Stadium Knoxville, T.N.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: FLA +6.5/TENN -6.5
Over/Under Total: 43.5
ESPN College GameDay will be in Knoxville this Saturday for a showdown between 19th ranked Florida Gators and the 14th ranked Tennessee Volunteers inside Neyland Stadium. This Tennessee-Florida rivalry use to be one of the biggest games in the SEC each year that carried huge SEC Championship implications. While this game may not have carried that same significance in recent years, this Saturday’s contest will revamp some meaning to this rivalry. With Georgia struggling, the winner of this Saturday’s contest between the Gators and Volunteers should take a frontrunner seat in the race for the SEC East.
For those familiar with the history of the Gators and the Volunteers, they know there was a time when the winner of this game often went on to win the SEC Title especially in the late 90s with legendary head coaches Phillip Fulmer and Steve Spurrier at the helm of both programs. Therefore, it is rather nice to see this game get some meaning in what used to be one of the top rivalries in college football. In recent years, Florida has taken firm control of the rivalry which has been mostly contributed to Tennessee’s epic downfall as a program. In fact, the Gators have surprisingly won 11 straight games over the Volunteers going all the way back to 2004.
The good news for Tennessee fans is that their program is back on the rise. Expectations were extremely high going into the season with the Volunteers starting the year with the number 9 ranking in the AP Polls. Those expectations were put on hold after the Volunteers barely pulled out a win against Appalachian State in their opener. However, Tennessee rebounded with a pretty impressive victory over Virginia Tech the following week at Bristol Motor Speedway in front of a record crowd of over 156,000. The question this week is can the Volunteers come up big on another big stage with ESPN GameDay on hand?
The Volunteers are loaded with talent but they have not exactly played great either. Last week, the Volunteers were 4 touchdown favorites over Ohio but found their selves in a dog fight once again in the 4th quarter. The Vols missed opportunities on special teams, committed a turnover inside their own territory, and had several drivers that simply stalled out which heightened the frustration factor. In fact, it is the Tennessee offense that has been hit or miss this season. While the defense has been pretty solid, the offense has not lived up to their expectations thus far with the big talents of quarterback Joshua Dobbs and running back Jalen Hurd. Dobbs has been sort of mediocre in the passing department and Hurd has just averaged 4 yards per carry despite 65 touches.
The good news is that Tennessee has found some relief with junior wide out Josh Malone who has become one of their “go to” threats. Malone has caught 4 of the team’s 6 passing touchdowns this season and is currently averaging more than 21 yards per catch. I really believe this game will be decided by what Tennessee is or is not able to accomplish on offense. The Gators have a very talented defense that has given up no more than 7 points in each of their first 3 games. They do a good job of stopping the run and are currently 2nd against the pass yielding just 87 yards on average through the first 3 games. Very impressive for a team going up against an offense that has struggled to move the football.
So why are the Gators underdogs you may ask? Well two easy answers. The first is the fact they are on the road in a tough environment. The second reason is many question how backup quarterback Austin Appleby is going to perform in his first game? Last week, starting quarterback Luke Del Rio went down with a knee injury in the 32-0 shutout over North Texas. Now Appleby, former Purdue transfer, will get his opportunity in the biggest game of the season. I am sure that it is a downgrade at the quarterback position but let’s not forget the fact that Florida is not going to shy away from running the football no matter who is behind center.
The Gators have run the ball 122 times through the first 3 games and have averaged over 200 yards per game. Jordan Scarlett, Mark Thompson, and Lamical Perine have all averaged over 5 yards per carry and have 30 touches a piece. Therefore, I expect Florida to stick to a similar game plan with running the football. Obviously, Appleby needs to help matters and make some throws down the field. However, I do not expect the huge drop off on offense that others are expecting for Florida this weekend.
Jay's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I like the under and Florida +6
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