SEC Preview: Gators vs. Volunteers

SEC
Quarterback Emory Jones (5) evades a UT defender on his way to a career-high 144 rushing yards in Saturday night’s 38-14 win at the “Swamp.” -Tim Casey/FloridaGators.com

The Gators and Volunteers will write the next chapter of this historic SEC rivalry this weekend. The bitter rivals will again have the national spotlight on them as College Gameday makes the trip to Knoxville, TN. The last ranked matchup between these teams was in 2017. The Gators have been dominant in this yearly series, losing only a single game dating back to 2005. However, the Vols are 10.5-point home favorites poised to hand the Gators their second SEC loss of the season.

Florida Gators

Florida opened up its season with one of the biggest wins in college football so far, but things have gone downhill since. Quarterback Anthony Richardson disappeared against a depleted Kentucky team that gave them several chances to win. The signal-caller struggled even more against South Florida last weekend. After a week one performance that catapulted Richardson into the Heisman conversation, we’re now looking at a QB with more tackles and interceptions than he has passing touchdowns.

Richardson just seems off. He’s not scrambling as much as he did against Utah, causing many to believe he’s nursing some sort of lower-body injury. Backup QB Jack Miller is still out recovering from his hand surgery, so Billy Napier will have to put his trust in Richardson again this weekend.

As for the defense, it has shown improvement under new coordinator Patrick Toney. However, starting middle linebacker Ventrell Miller is questionable to play this game as he recovers from an injury he suffered against Kentucky. Miller is the Gators’ leader on defense and they have looked noticeably worse with him off the field.

Tennessee Volunteers

The Volunteers are red hot entering one of the most important games of their season. Tennessee’s offense ranks best in the SEC and 3rd in the entire nation, averaging over 553 yards per game and 52 points per game. The Vols are led by a dynamic transfer quarterback Hendon Hooker, who threw 31 touchdowns with only three interceptions last year. The former Virginia Tech QB can also beat you with his legs, which is something that has given the Gators defense fits all season long.

While all the talk is about their high-octane offense, the defensive side of the ball is also much improved. They are only allowing 14 points per game, a massive turnaround for a defense that surrendered 48 points per game last year. However, the Vols looked vulnerable against the run against Pittsburgh and will be facing a scarier rushing attack against Florida.

There are a lot of players listed as questionable on the Vols’ injury report, but none more notable than star wide receiver Cedric Tillman. Tillman suffered a high-ankle injury last week and could be a big loss if he is out tomorrow.

Prediction

The Vols are coming into Neyland Stadium thinking this is finally their year to take down the Gators. Meanwhile, Florida is playing with pride, looking to extend its winning streak against a rival. While the spread is lopsided in Tennessee’s favor, I do think Florida keeps this one close with their strong running game. However, I believe the Vols’ high-powered offense will show up and the raucous environment will be too much for Anthony Richardson to handle.

Gators 24, Volunteers 31

Stay tuned for more details…

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