Tennessee has lost 13 out of the last 14 matchups with the Florida Gators. It doesn’t get any easier on the road. The Vols have lost their past seven matchups in The Swamp. Coincidentally enough, the last time they won on the road, they followed it up with a win the next year, which also marks the last time they beat the Gators in consecutive seasons (2003-2004).
But football is all about the present. This week, the Rocky Top Talk staff makes their predictions concerning one of UT’s biggest — if not the biggest — rivals in the SEC.
What do you think will happen? Let us know in the comments below!
Austin: Florida 31, Tennessee 20
The victory over UT-Chattanooga was a massive confidence builder for a team that desperately needed one. It was encouraging to see so many players receive valuable game experience heading into conference play. Daniel Bituli got his feet wet, and is ready to be the field general for a defense that could use more leadership. And, each day it looks more and more like Bryce Thompson is going to get a chance to play on Saturday. Combine this with the fact the Florida has substantial injury concerns, and there is reason to be optimistic for this match-up.
However, in my opinion, Tennessee has too many freshman starting at too many important positions. Two offensive linemen, at least one defensive linemen, a middle linebacker, and possibly a running back? Add a cornerback to that list if Thompson is held out. That’s a lot of youth. Now, that’s not an excuse. Those players are all extremely talented and will be difference-makers for the Vols for years to come. But, the first road game in college football, at a place the Vols haven’t won since 2003, against a top-10 team in the country? That is a task that I think is too big for us right now. Florida wins, but I have Tennessee to cover the current 14-point spread — if you’re into that sort of thing.
Clint: Florida 24, Tennessee 10
It’s well known that the staff focused on this game before it even started. It’s not hard to see why: among the benchmarks that Tennessee fans require for a successful season, beating Florida is near the top. Pruitt and his staff know they could make a statement by heading into Gainesville and leaving with a victory over a top-10 team that has looked vulnerable to start the season. That same team is missing their regular starting quarterback, and is also dealing with injuries across its defensive line.
I think Tennessee’s defense is up to the task. They’ll frustrate Florida all game and keep this a contest going into the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, I don’t think Tennessee’s offense is able to match their performance. I think the Vols will have decent success on the ground, but Jarrett Guarantano will make too many mistakes and drives will end too soon.
Florida adds a late touchdown to beat the spread.
Evan: Florida 23, Tennessee 14
Two weeks ago, I would have said there was no way Tennessee keeps this game close. Maybe it’s just pride talking at this point, but I feel pretty good heading into Saturday’s matchup.
Now, that doesn’t mean I think the Vols will win. Tennessee has a ton of questions to answer and they still have a ways to go before they can win a SEC game, especially one against a top-10 team.
The Vols keep it close until the Gators pull away in the fourth quarter.
Noah: Florida 27, Tennessee 10
A couple of factors will keep this one close for three quarters, including the noon kickoff and Florida having to likely play two backup quarterbacks.
I think defense will headline the game, as both offenses will struggle to produce points and possibly make a mistake or two.
While I think the Vols’ defense has improved, on paper Florida will have the edge on both sides of the ball. The Gators’ offense, despite playing two quarterbacks with limited experience, can score enough while their defense-particularly upfront-will limit Tennessee for most of the game.
Florida tacks on a couple of scores in the fourth quarter to pull away.
Terry: Florida 23, Tennessee 13
I think we get one of those ugly defensive matchups on Saturday in The Swamp. Tennessee gets Daniel Bituli back, along with Bryce Thompson — in some form. The Volunteers’ defense should be able to hold their own against a backup quarterback (or two) for Florida.
Will a noon kick put the Gators to sleep? That’s certainly possible as well. Maybe I’m crazy, but I just don’t think this Florida team is all that good. That’s not to say Tennessee is better, however.
This will all come down to the Tennessee offense being able to run the football and Jarrett Guarantano limiting mistakes and making the correct read. Guarantano is going to have to make a few plays down the field in my opinion — that’s just not something I’m willing to bet on.
A 4th quarter contest comes up short for the Vols, as the Gators put this one on ice late.