Florida Gators at Tennessee Volunteers, Saturday Sept. 24, 3:30 p.m. ET
If you didn't pay a lot of attention to these teams, you would assume that this was a nice, intense rivalry. Both teams have been strong at times over the last decade, so you would guess that there have been some real showdowns. In fact, it's the worst kind of rivalry - a very lopsided one. The Gators have won the last 11 meetings between the squads. If you consider what the last few years have looked like for the Gators, that is very embarrassing for the guys in orange.
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As Florida tries to make it an even dozen, both teams come in with unblemished 3-0 records. They have found very different routes to 3-0, though. Florida has been very impressive, allowing just 14 points in three games and winning by an average of 29 points. I t hasn't been a dynamic schedule - Kentucky has been their strongest opponent - but they have more than just taken care of business. Tennessee, meanwhile, has made success look hard. They came very close to losing to Appalachian State in their opener and didn't exactly overpower Ohio last week. If you believe in momentum then the edge in this one is clear. Of course, if you use momentum to guide your betting decisions then you don't win a lot.
Florida at Tennessee Betting Storylines
Injuries are unfortunately a big story coming into this one - on both sides. Tennessee is without two defensive starters - cornerback Cam Sutton and linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. Top backup linebacker Quart'e Sapp is also out. The Florida offense, which has been potent up to this point, could exploit those absences, but they have issues of their own to overcome first. QB Luke Del Rio is out for this one, and guard Tyler Jordan and receiver Antonio Callaway are likely out for the second straight week. Replacing Del Rio will be Austin Appleby, a grad transfer from Purdue. He has 11 career starts, but they came at woeful Purdue, so they hardly count. His numbers aren't great, either - his QB and interception totals are both 19 on his career. Appleby's experience makes him better than a first-time starter, but Del Rio is off to a good start at Florida and will be missed here.
Tennessee has had a very rough time protecting the ball lately. Against the Hokies at Bristol they threw an interception and fumbled twice. Last week against Ohio they fumbled five more times. They haven't lost those fumbles, but things are going to go badly if you can't protect the ball better than that. With the ferociousness that Florida has played with to this point, this is a real concern in this one.
Every year except for last year in the last 12 years the team that won the rushing battle won this game. Last year QB Joshua Dobbs and running back Jalen Hurd led the Tennessee attack on the ground, and they had a massive 254-109 yard edge. It wasn't quite enough - Florida won 28-27. Dobbs and Hurd are both back this year, but the Tennessee running game has really sputtered this year compared to last year's performance. The offensive line gets most of the blame here, but they will have to improve in a hurry against a defense with swagger if they want to come out on top in this one.
Florida at Tennessee Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Tennessee favored by eight at home. That has since moved through the key number of seven to the current level of 6.5. Florida has drawn more than 70 percent of all bets, so the line movement is as expected. The total opened at 44 and has fallen slightly to 43.5.
The Gators are a strong 8-2 ATS in their last 10 conference games and an even stronger 9-1 ATS in their last 10 road games. They didn't cover last time out, but are 7-1 ATS in their last eight games following an ATS loss. The issue for Florida is that they are just 2-5 ATS in their last seven overall. The Volunteers have covered their last five spreads against teams with a winning record and are 5-1 ATS in their last six conference games.
Florida at Tennessee Predictions and Picks
The location of this one makes it more interesting and challenging, but I still don't find it too tough to side with Florida here. Appleby is a concern, but Tennessee's defensive injuries give him some room to breathe. Florida has been better coached this year, and their defense is a big asset here. I would have liked the price a lot better when the Vols were giving up a touchdown or more, but the Gators still offer the best betting proposition here. Click here for more free NCAA winners this weekend.
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