Tennessee Volunteers vs. Florida Gators Preview and Pick – 26218

Tennessee Volunteers (1-1) +8, o/u 55 at Florida Gators (2-0), 3:30
pm Eastern Saturday, ESPN

by Zman of Predictem.com

The defending national champions and one of their favorite rivals kick off the Southeastern Conference season in style when the Florida Gators host the Tennessee Volunteers Saturday afternoon in Gainesville.

Florida has started the defense of its title with a couple of convincing wins, 49-3 over Western Kentucky (no line) and, last week, 59-31 over Troy as 26-point home favorites. But this is a young team that returns just eight starters from last season, six on offense and only two on defense.

Tennessee has 11 starters back, six on O and five on D, from the team that went 9-4 and lost to Penn State in the Outback Bowl last season.

The Volunteers opened this season with a 45-31 loss at Cal as seven-point road underdogs. The game was tied at 21 well into the second quarter, but Tennessee simply had little success stopping the Bears, allowing 471 yards of total offense on the day. The game went well over its total of 55.

Last week, the Vols beat Southern Mississippi 39-19 as 11-point home favorites. But Tennessee trailed that game 16-10 late in the second quarter. A week after getting outrushed by Cal 230-111, the Volunteers outgrounded the Golden Eagles 193-90.

Meanwhile, the Gators have outrushed their two opponents this season by an average of 137 yards per game.

Florida has beaten Tennessee twice in a row. Last year, the Gators rallied from a 17-7 third-quarter deficit to win 21-20, but they failed to cover the spread as 3 1/2-point road chalk. Also, the game stayed under its posted total of 46. Florida outrushed the Vols 121 to -11, and held a 35/25 time-of-possession advantage.

Last season Tennessee went 4-1 both straight up and against the spread on the road, while the Gators went 7-0 straight up and 3-2-1 vs. the numbers at the Swamp. In fact, Florida has won 17 consecutive home games.

Volunteers senior QB Erik Ainge, with 25 career collegiate starts under his belt, has completed 66% of his passes so far this season and owns a 5/1 TD/INT ratio.

Gators sophomore QB Tim Tebow, who’s now started two games in his college career, has hit on 74% of his throws so far this season, owns a 6/0 TD/INT ratio, and has rushed for 131 yards.

Tennessee was dogged four times last season, and while they went just 1-3 straight up in those games, they also went 2-1-1 against the spread.

Florida will be without senior starting WR Andre Caldwell for at least a couple of weeks with a knee injury.

The Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings at USAToday.com ranks the Gators seventh at 89.2, the Vols 36th at 77.8.

Florida opened up as an eight-point favorite for Saturday’s game, with a total of around 58. But while the spread has remained steady, the total has been bet down as much as three points at several online bookies. The Gators are also listed at about -330 on the moneyline, with Tennessee getting +250.

The Pick: Florida -7.5.