Florida (3-0, 1-0) at Tennessee (3-0, 0-0)
When: Saturday, September 24th 2016
Where: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, TN
Time: 3:30 ET | TV: CBS
For the first time in ten years, the Florida Gators and Tennessee Volunteers will do battle as ranked opponents when they take the field on Saturday in Knoxville. Tennessee came into this season as the favorite to win the SEC East, but are off to a sluggish start despite their 3-0 record. They were big favorites against Appalachian State and needed overtime to win 20-13 and were up on Ohio 21-19 after three quarters before winning 28-19 last Saturday. They did look impressive two weeks ago in Bristol when they beat Virginia Tech 45-24 thanks to the defense recovering five fumbles including a school-record three by free safety Micah Abernathy. The Vols are just 101st nationally in total offense (351 yards per game) but are led by dual-threat quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who rushed for 136 yards against the Gators last season. Tennessee is capable of scoring quickly as their scoring drives have averaged only 2 minutes. Junior running back Jalen Hurd, who rushed for 106 yards in Tennessee’s win over Virginia Tech, and junior wide receiver Josh Malone (21.8 yards per catch) are the other offensive weapons.
The Florida defense is stocked with talent and depth and have allowed the fewest points in the nation at just 4.7 per game. They also rank first in total defense (129.7 yards) and second in rushing defense (38.3 yards). Led by linemen Caleb Brantley and Jordan Sherit, linebackers Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis and a secondary that includes preseason All-American Teez Tabor, the Gators set a school record by holding North Texas to 53 yards of total offense in last week’s 32-0 shutout. Florida suffered a blow in the third quarter of last weekend’s game when starting quarterback Luke Del Rio suffered a knee sprain, elevating graduate student Austin Appleby into the starting role. Appleby started 11 games and passed for 332 yards in his final start at Purdue before becoming a Gator. Florida had four running backs – Jordan Scarlett, Mark Thompson, Lamical Perine and Jordan Cronkrite – score against North Texas, and with the change at quarterback, the Gators will likely lean on the ground game against Tennessee.
The Florida defense is really good and will keep them in any game they play. I believe the Gators will have some success on the ground and control the clock. Appleby is not a freshman and won’t be fazed by this atmosphere. Look for a field goal game decided in the fourth quarter. Take the points.
Pick: Florida +6.5