Week 3 of this year’s college football season offers us the first clash in the SEC between ranked opponents when the No. 18 Florida Gators travel to Neyland Stadium to face off against the surprising No. 23-ranked Tennessee Volunteers this Saturday night. The game is slated to get underway at 6 p.m. ET and it will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.
Florida comes into this matchup fresh off a thrilling 20-17 victory over Texas A&M this past Saturday as a one-point road favorite. This followed a closer-than-expected 27-14 win over Bowling Green as a 28-point home favorite on opening day. The total stayed “under” in both games.
Tennessee started this season with little fanfare and was barely on the AP’s radar when the preseason Top 25 was first released. Starting with an opening-day 35-21 romp over North Carolina State as three-point road favorites coupled with a 51-13 beatdown of Division IAA Georgia State as 46-point favorites at home, the Volunteers have flexed their muscles early.
The Gators’ offense has been getting done on the ground so far with an average of 181 rushing yards per game as opposed to just 155 yards through the air. Running back Mike Gillislee has rushed 38 times for 231 yards for a rock-solid 6.1 yards per carry. He also leads the team in scoring with four touchdowns. Florida head coach Wil Muschamp decided to go with Jeff Driskel as his starting quarterback in the game against the Aggies after he split time with Jacoby Bissett on opening day. Driskel managed the limited passing game well by completing 13-of-16 attempts for 162 yards, but he was sacked eight times and had a tendency to hold onto the ball a bit too long.
The primary reason for the come-from-behind victory over Texas A&M was the elevated play of Florida’s defense in the second half. It pitched a shutout on the scoreboard while making life miserable for freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, who was completely shut down after halftime.
The Volunteers come into this game with the ninth-ranked passing offense in the nation in terms of yards per game. Tyler Bray has put the ball up 65 times in the first two games and completed an extremely impressive 73.8 percent of those throws for 643 yards and six touchdowns. The junior has yet to be picked off and has an overall passer rating of 194.8. Justin Hunter has been his favorite target so far with 17 receptions for 219 yards and three of the six scores. Cordarrelle Patterson has 164 yards receiving and is averaging 18.2 yards a catch.
The biggest turnaround for Tennessee has been on the defensive side of the ball. That unit has given-up a total of 34 points this year after giving up 30 or more points four times last season, including a 33-23 loss to Florida in Week 3 as a 10-point road underdog.
Odds and Trends
Pointspread: Tennessee -2.5
The Gators are 7-1-1 against the spread in their last nine September games but 2-9 ATS in their last 11 games overall. The total has stayed under in their last five road games.
The Volunteers are 1-6-1 ATS in their last eight games in the SEC and 0-4-1 ATS in their last five games following a straight up win. The total has stayed under in four of their last six games at home.
Head-to-head, Florida has won the last seven meetings SU and is 3-1-1 ATS in the last five. It is also 4-1-1 ATS in its last six trips to Tennessee with the total evenly split 2-2 in the last four meetings there.
The Gators have not been an underdog in this series since 2004. This is undoubtedly the best Tennessee team it has faced in recent memory, but look for Florida to rely on its running game and defense to grind out a SU win in its second-straight SEC contest on the road.
The Pick: Take #159 Florida (+2.5) over Tennessee (Saturday, Sept. 15, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN)
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