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Gators vs. Tennessee Volunteers Pick
No. 10 Florida Gators (2-0, 1-1 ATS) at Tennessee Volunteers (1-1, 0-1 ATS), Week 3 College Football, Saturday September 18th, 3:30PM Eastern Neyland Stadium Knoxville, T.N.
By Jay Horne, Professional College Football Handicapper of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: University of Florida -16.5/Vols +16.5
The no. 10 ranked Florida Gators offense finally sprang to life last week as they blasted Skip Holtz South Florida Bulls 38-14. The Gators struggling offense was one of the highlighted surprises from week 1 and they were rusty out of the gates again scoring just 7 points in the first half against the Bulls. However, running back Jeffery Demps yet again provided some exciting big plays that catapulted the Gators offense into scoring 31 2nd half points. The Gators now take the resurging offense to Knoxville to battle the Tennessee Volunteers in their conference opener.
The Volunteers hosted no. 5 Oregon last week and jumped on the Ducks early in the game leading by as much as 13-3 through most of the 2nd quarter. However, the Volunteers collapsed in the second half as they failed to stop the Ducks explosiveness on offense eventually leading to a 48-13 blasting in front of the home crowd in Knoxville. The Volunteers now try to regain some of their lost confidence and put together a solid performance for 4 straight quarters this Saturday when the rival Gators come to town. It was the Tennessee defense’s inability to stop the run and the offense’s missed opportunities that led to the score getting out of hand. The Volunteers defense surrendered 245 rushing yards and 447 total yards to Oregon. The defense has to be a main concern again as Florida brings in a highly talented rushing attack once again to Knoxville this Saturday.
Gators tailback Jeffery Demps has taken up the slack of the sputtering pass offense in the last two weeks. Demps has only carried the ball 19 times in just 2 games this season, but those 19 carries have resulted in 237 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. At the moment, Demps is averaging a little over 12 yards per carry which is simply outstanding. Considering the big gains that Tennessee allowed last week on the ground due to the speed of the Oregon offense, Coach Urban Meyer has to be thinking of a similar approach with all of the speedy tailbacks he has at his exposal.
However, the focus for the Gators offense still is on the pass offense led by junior QB John Brantley. Brantley has not put up any bad numbers this year completing 63% of his throws for 285 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 0 picks in just two games. However, it is the explosive factor that the Gators have failed to produce that has made them so dangerous over the past few seasons. It may not be Brantley that is the problem, but simply trying to find some playmakers at the wide receiver position. The Gators are still desperately waiting for one of their talented wide outs to provide some sparks in the passing game. At the moment, the Gators have not had a single play over 25 yards through the air which is not the norm for the people in Gainesville.
Even with all those factors holding the offense back just the slightest bit, the Gators are still a power on both sides of the ball. The defense has performed as advertised picking off 4 passes in each of their first two games. In fact, Florida leads the nation as a team with 8 picks thus early in the season. The Gators ferocious defense now gets to chomp their teeth into another shaky quarterback in Tennessee’s Matt Simms. Simms was 15 for 29 last week for 151 yards and 1 pick. However, it was the 1 pick that really turned the game into a blood bath in favor of Oregon. The Volunteers were down by 7 and charging down the field in attempt to even up the score when Simms pass was picked off and returned 76 yards to put the Ducks up 27-13. Of course, everything went down hill from there.
Still, the Volunteers have the tools of the trade to keep the competitive this season. Running back Tauren Poole proved to be one of the SEC’s top tailbacks carrying the ball 23 times for 162 yards and a touchdown. Poole along with the Volunteers offensive line have the ingredients for a solid rushing attack, but just need to find ways to finish off drives. New Volunteers coach Derek Dooley dropped to 1-1 in his first two games in Knoxville and now will have to get his team ready for their first rival type game when SEC action gets underway this Saturday. If the Volunteers are going to keep this game close, ball control and disciplined defense will be key. Tennessee will need to keep Florida’s big plays to a minimal and not allow them any 2nd chances with the football. If those things happen and Poole keeps running strong, this game could be much closer than most predict.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I think Tennessee keeps this one close. Florida is just too inconsistent to blow them out of the water despite the Volunteers getting embarrassed by Oregon. Two blowouts over the home team in Knoxville two weeks in a row? When is the last time that happened? Take Tennessee +15.
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