Florida vs. Tennessee fearless prediction and game preview.
Date: Saturday, September 22
Game Time: 7:00 ET
Venue: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, TN
Florida (2-1) vs. Tennessee (2-1) Game Preview
It’s the matchup that used to shut down the rest of the college football world, and it might do that again in the near future.
Tennessee and new head coach Jeremy Pruitt get a free pass for a little while. This is a program that needs a whole lot of work and a whole lot of time to get up to SEC championship speed – if it can get there under Pruitt – and after losing 12 of the last 13 in the series, losing to the Gators wouldn’t be anything new.
But win, and all of a sudden, the Volunteer season and the Pruitt era get a jumpstart.
But if Florida loses, there’s a big, big problem.
Yeah, new head man Dan Mullen is going to get a little bit of time to make the Gators great again, but after losing to Kentucky a few weeks ago, he can’t lose to Tennessee.
Actually, he can – it’s not like he’s going to get fired or anything – but it will be a horrible start for a team with the talent and the expectations to turn things around in a hurry.
This can’t be the thriller that last year’s 26-20 Gator win – with a walk-off on a 63-yard Feleipe Franks to Tyrie Cleveland touchdown pass – but it should be a fun, telling battle.
One Reason Why Florida Will Win
The Tennessee offense is better, but that’s partly because it rolled up East Tennessee State and UTEP over the last two weeks. It struggled against West Virginia, having a hard time turning yards into points.
The Gator defense has been great so far at forcing takeaways with eight so far, coming up with two or more in each game, and every forced mistake against Tennessee will be devastating.
This isn’t a Vol offense that will march up and down the field, and field position will be at a premium. The Florida offense hasn’t been anything special so far, but it should be able to take advantage of its chances.
As long as the Gator D is strong against the run, it should be okay. The secondary is one of Florida’s biggest strengths, and while Tennessee is connecting on its passes, the O isn’t exploding.
One Reason Why Tennessee Will Win
The Vols have to hold on to the ball and control the clock.
In a game like this with two mediocre offenses, owning the tempo means everything. Tennessee might have its issues, but it’s dominating the time of possession battle, keeping the ball for over 32 minutes per game. Florida goes with a decent tempo, but it’s offense is on the field for just 26 minutes a game.
No, Tennessee’s running game isn’t great all of a sudden because it tore off 345 yards against UTEP, and there’s no Benny Snell or Terry Wilson like Kentucky has in its backfield, but there’s a chance the ground attack can get a bit of a punch against a slightly-disappointing Gator defensive front.
It held up against Colorado State last week, but it got hit for over 300 yards on the ground against Kentucky a few weeks ago. Tennessee has to at least give it a try, and then hope Jared Guarantano can be solid.
He has yet to throw for more than 175 yards, but Guarantano is hitting 72% of his passes with no picks so far.
There’s a chance slow and steady wins this race.
What’s Going To Happen
This will be another really, really frustrating loss for the Vols.
There was the Franks firebomb last year, the Will Grier fourth down conversions before that, and now, it’ll be a game full of missed opportunities.
Florida will never be able to put the game away and be comfortable, but it’ll come up with a few early scores, and then the defense will hold firm time and again.
Here’s going to be the Tennessee party line after this: “We’re one or two offensive playmakers away … .”
Fearless Prediction & Line
Florida 27, Tennessee 23
Line: Florida -4.5, o/u: 49
ATS Confidence out of 5: 1.5
Must See Rating: 3
1: Murphy Brown