Another chapter in one of the SEC’s top rivalries will be written on Saturday when No. 9 Florida hosts Tennessee in what’s a big game for both programs in The Swamp. Florida is coming off of a nail-biting win on the road over Kentucky that saw the Gators come back from down two scores in the fourth quarter and hang on thanks to a missed Kentucky field goal in the final minute. Tennessee got in the win column for the first time this season with a resounding 45-0 victory over Chattanooga last week at Neyland Stadium.
The Gators have won 13 of the last 14 over the Vols and are looking to start a season 4-0 for the first time since 2015. Florida will also have its backup quarterback moving into the starting role and could have two star defenders sidelined with ankle injuries for the game. What will happen Saturday afternoon in The Swamp? Let’s break down the game and make a pick.
Florida: Quarterback Feleipe Franks suffered a season-ending ankle injury late in the third quarter last week, which led to Kyle Trask’s fourth quarter heroics against the Wildcats. The redshirt junior signal-caller went 9-of-13 passing for 126 yards in the fourth quarter alone to spark the comeback. The Gators have struggled in the running game this year, which will be critical to helping Trask get comfortable in his first career start. The offense has been inconsistent, but the defense has been the exact opposite. The Gators lead the nation with 16 sacks, are sixth in tackles for loss with 29 and are tied for fourth in the nation in red zone defense after allowing points in only four of the opponent’s eight red zone possessions.
Tennessee: The Volunteers were stagnant on offense during their first two games and only gained 360 yards last week against the Mocs. Stats can be deceiving, though. Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano finally had a good game last week, going 7 of 8 for 142 yards and three touchdowns before being pulled when the second-teamers entered. Ty Chandler has established himself as a capable No. 1 running back, and the Vols are still loaded at wide receiver. The defense has struggled in critical situations, including on third downs where it has allowed conversions on 44.68 percent of attempts — 105th in the nation.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 21 | Time: Noon ET
Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium — Gainesville, Florida
TV: ESPN | Live stream: WatchESPN.com
Game prediction, picks
The Gators are better off with Trask at quarterback. Franks has a high ceiling that helped the Gators make the Peach Bowl last year, but his floor has been incredibly low during his career in Gainesville. Trask had taken over for Franks last November before getting hurt, and has clearly earned the trust of the staff. He’ll have a solid day, not make mistakes and find his talented group of receivers to force Tennessee into a shootout. Guarantano will keep up for a while, but the Gators secondary will make several key plays in the second half to lead the Gators to a win, but not a cover. Tennessee will hang in there deep into the fourth quarter. Pick: Tennessee (+14.5)
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