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Staff predictions: Tennessee-Florida

Can the Vols get over the hump?

NCAA Football: Akron at Tennessee Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee has dropped 16 of the last 17 meetings with Florida. They’ll be looking to change that trend as we enter a new era of the rivalry on Saturday afternoon.

Billy Napier will make his first appearance for the Gators, trying to pick up the pieces that Dan Mullen left him. He rolls into Knoxville on Saturday to face No. 11 Tennessee, which has quickly turned around under the direction of Josh Heupel.

Can Tennessee get over the hump and beat Florida for the first time since 2016? Here are our staff predictions.

Terry: 31-23, Tennessee

I told myself I wouldn’t pick Tennessee to win this game, and yet here I go.

Tennessee is flat out the better team here, as evidenced by the last couple of weeks. The Gators came out and beat a likely overrated Utah team in The Swamp, coming up with a huge interception to seal it in the closing seconds. Since then, Kentucky beat them at home and lowly South Florida nearly did the same.

This isn’t to say Tennessee has been perfect, either. In fact, they’ve been far from it, and I’ve still got real concerns about their run game and secondary. I just don’t think Florida is the team that can exploit those two things.

I’m assuming Cedric Tillman doesn’t play here, which makes this one closer on the scoreboard. Bru McCoy and Jalin Hyatt have to show up and show out — and the offensive line has to be able to win the battle up front. I think Tennessee wins ugly-ish, but Florida gets the cover.

Clint: 35-21, Tennessee

Emotional hedges are a real thing that everyone does. The idea is, you should go against the logical part of your brain and pick the opposite of what your eyes are telling you, because then it makes any inevitable disappointment easier to bear. I won’t be doing this.

This Florida team has a lot of flaws that have been laid bare over the past two weeks. They have shallow depth, their offense doesn’t work if Anthony Richardson isn’t threatening to run, they lack any real difference maker at wide receiver, etc. They are a very average team. By contrast, Tennessee has continued to take steps forward and seemingly resolved some of the defensive issues that plagued them last season.

I expect Tennessee to come out guns blazing and quickly test Florida’s defensive depth. I also expect Florida to try and grind it out and prevent Tennessee’s offense from getting too many possessions. In the end, I think the Volunteers will prove too much for a rebuilding Florida team.

Matthew: 40-28, Tennessee

This will either be a very close game or the Vols could distance themselves early depending on the play of Anthony Richardson. Florida’s offense is very dependent on him, and while his passing stats don’t quite reflect it, he’s an electric playmaker when he’s on.

If Tennessee can contain him and stop the run, something they struggled with a season ago in this game, I like their chances of breaking out of their woes against the Gators.

Nick: 31-28, Florida

I am and have been entrenched in the “don’t believe any hype around Tennessee beating Florida until you see it happen,” crowd.

Tennessee probably has the better team, even without star WR Cedric Tillman, if he does end up missing the game thanks to the Akron DBs and the UT coaches having him in the game, playing, up four TDs.

I just don’t know how much that really matters.

I figure it’s gonna be pretty close, though I don’t imagine it’s gonna be the track-meet kinda game that would favor Tennessee’s pace.

UT needs to tighten up its first couple drives of the game, cut down on the penalties and find a way to keep the UF run game bottled up. If those things happen, we’ll be in good shape.