The staff saw a letdown coming against Ohio, and they were right, with the Vols struggling to a mistake-filled 28-19 win over the Bobcats. Closest to the Pin goes to Incipient, whose 31-20 prediction was just two points off on the margin and four off on the total. This week? We don't know what to think with the Gators coming to town. Five pick the Vols. Three pick Florida. To the picks!
Incipient (3-0 straight up, 2-1 against the spread): There are concerns in the back seven, but between Tennessee's DL, Bob Shoop, and Florida's offensive issues, I don't see the Gators putting up a whole lot of points. Tennessee, on the other hand? The Vols' offensive line against the Florida DL is a mismatch, but Tennessee has enough talent at the skill positions that the Vols will get their scoring opportunities. The question is whether they can cash in. Tennessee has lost two years straight because they relied on field goals to build a lead and then cracked under pressure. Florida's defense is definitely good enough to force field goals again this year, and I have seen nothing from Butch Jones that convinces me his teams won't crack under pressure. The result? More of the same. Florida 17 Tennessee 16
Will (3-0 straight up, 2-1 against the spread): It goes without saying the Vols are going to appropriately open up the playbook and involve Dobbs in the running game. I don't expect Chance Hall to be the savior on the offensive line, but I also think we can still expect the offensive line to improve, even if only relatively so against Florida. The self-appointed best defense in the nation is still only the best defense against UMass, Kentucky, and North Texas for now - those guys are certainly talented, but I think the Vols should still be confident in the way they moved the ball on them last year. And I think all of this will ultimately be less meaningful than what Tennessee's defense can do to Austin Appleby and Florida's offense: to me, Tennessee's defense is more likely to shut down Florida's offense than vice versa. And where big unexpected plays might come in to upset the balance? For once in this rivalry, Tennessee has the advantage on special teams as well. Do not be afraid. Tennessee 23 Florida 10
Joel (3-0 straight up, 1-2 against the spread): Tennessee 24 Florida 16
Chris (3-0 straight up, 1-2 against the spread): Did you know the World Cup of Hockey is on? Yeah! It's a thing, and the US is horribly disappointing in it, but I bring it up because it's a different thing you can root for that's horribly disappointing instead of being asked to pick this game. Florida bringing in their backup QB is just twisting the knife, and if you think I can be rational about this game, I don't know what to tell you. Florida 24 Tennessee 17
Hunter (3-0 straight up, 1-2 against the spread): Prior to the season, all of the advanced stats and models loved by degenerate gamblers pointed to a really successful season for the Vols. Through three games against pretty decent opponents, Tennessee hasn't looked anything like we thought they would... except that the Vols have turned it on whenever they've needed to close out games. Is that a foolish thing to bank on? Uh, yeah-- but I'm betting this team has a gear we haven't seen yet, and that it comes out in front of a packed house, in the Smokey Grays, against an untested but dangerous Florida team. Tennessee 24 Florida 20
Volundore (3-0 straight up, 2-1 against the spread): On the one hand, you have Florida's dominant defense, currently leading the nation in points allowed (4.7 PPG) and total defense (129.7 yards per game), which they have achieved by being equally salty against the run and pass (2nd in the country in both). Competition and all that, but yikes. On the other hand, you have our well documented OL struggles that have hampered both our running and passing game thus far. If you have a buddy with you, his or her two hands are split between a Florida offense that has put up decent numbers (top 40 in passing and total offense) with a QB who won't be playing versus a MASH unit Tennessee defense that has lived off of fumbles and forced field goals.
Justin (3-0 straight up, 1-2 against the spread): I'm with Chris--I can't possibly be rational about this game. I'll either display sheer irrational confidence, completely unmerited by the product we've seen thus far from the Vols, or I'll sink into a depressive stupor by enumerating all the reasons we do not belong on the same field as the Gators...whose most impressive win, to date, might actually be UMass. I'm going with the former, because it is just what I do where this series is concerned. The offense gets just enough going, remembering that they gashed the Gators last year for 250+ on the ground, and the defense, banged up as it is, still has enough to stop a Big Ten backup who might not have Antonio Callaway at his disposal. Shoop will throw the house at Florida, and it will land squarely on Austin Appleby. Ding, dong the witch is dead. Tennessee 21 Florida 20
Trey (3-0 straight up, 1-2 against the spread): Well, if I can't be rational about this, I'm sure as heck not going to make myself preemptively depressed, too. Florida ain't played nobody. Gators get up early (PLAYING EXACTLY INTO OUR HANDS) and Tennessee recovers a couple of late fumbles ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) to end our decade-long waking nightmare. Tennessee 28 Florida 17
Rocky Top Talk Staff Average (3-0 straight up, 2-1 against the spread): Tennessee 21 Florida 18
Vegas: Tennessee -6.5. Over/under 43. Tennessee 25 Florida 18