Things can change pretty quickly in college football. Take the Florida Gators as your latest example. Billy Napier’s year one squad opened the year with a takedown of No. 7 Utah, making us all reconsider what the Gators could do this season. They followed that up with a loss to Kentucky, and then nearly let lowly South Florida pull the upset on Saturday.
And now for the first time under Napier, they’ll hit the road. Knoxville will be their destination, where the Gators will be looking to win their 17th of the last 18 matchups against Tennessee.
It’s been a one-sided affair lately, with Tennessee’s last win in the series coming in 2016. Even that took a comeback from an early 21-0 deficit.
But these Volunteers seem different. If by no other metric, they can score with the best of them as Josh Heupel has completely transformed this offense into one of the nation’s best. Tennessee hung right with Florida last season for a half, before melting down in the fourth quarter. Vegas sees things playing out differently this year.
Tennessee has opened the week as a ten point favorite, per DraftKings Sportsbook. That number was hanging somewhere around five points for much of the summer, so that performance against South Florida did seem to have an impact.
The total is currently at 63 points.
Tennessee (kinda) passed their first test at Pittsburgh, winning an ugly overtime filled with mistakes. Outside of that, they’ve blown the doors off of two cupcakes. Senior quarterback Hendon Hooker has been steady as expected, but his top target Cedric Tillman and top running back Jabari Small both went down with injuries early against Akron. Both situations will need to be closely monitored this week, if we get any information at all from Heupel. Tillman is obviously the big key here — you saw how much he meant to Tennessee against Pittsburgh.
The Volunteers still have Jalin Hyatt and Bru McCoy, but it would be Ramel Keyton and Walker Merrill filling in for Tillman if he couldn’t go. That’s quite the drop-off from Tillman, who is a true game-breaker on the outside.
The key in this one might just come down to whether or not Florida can keep up with Tennessee. Anthony Richardson has struggled through the air, throwing for just 423 yards and four picks through three games. Billed as a Heisman candidate, Richardson has been perhaps the most disappointing player in the country through three games. He’s now set to face a Tennessee front that was able to take over the game against Pittsburgh, knocking Kedon Slovis out of the game and eventually hobbling backup Nick Patti too. Richardson’s legs could obviously be the difference, however, just as we saw against Utah.
More on this game throughout the week, but it’s setting up to be a wild scene in Knoxville. Neyland will be checkered and College Gameday will be in attendance. This is one Tennessee needs to get, and Vegas believes they will.
CBS will have the coverage on Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See DraftKings.com/sportsbook for details.