Tennessee U +7½ vs. Florida.
It’s a monster weekend in the SEC, with the LSU-Auburn matchup good for early control of the West Division and the Florida-Tennessee winner getting a leg up in the East Division.
The Vols haven’t beaten Florida since Urban Meyer came to Gainesville and were outclassed 59-20 last year. UF linebacker Brandon Spikes put up some bulletin-board material this week in remembering last year’s blowout.
“They kind of gave up,” Spikes said. “We saw them give up. They quit playing.”
In addition, bettors are bailing on the Vols, who are +7.5 on WagerWeb.com, after seeing the team that Tennessee lost to in its opener, UCLA, get destroyed 59-0 last week to BYU.
With Tennessee out of the AP Top 25, it’s the first time since 1984 that only one of these rivals enters their September showdown ranked – UF is ranked No. 4.
Expect Tennessee to try and pound the ball on Saturday with RBs Arian Foster and Montario Hardesty – especially with QB Jonathan Crompton completing just over 50% of his passes and throwing three interceptions in the first two games.
“Our quarterback making good, quick decisions is certainly an area we need to improve,” said UT coach Phil Fulmer.
But if Tennessee can somehow control the clock and keep Tim Tebow and the Florida offense off the field, the Vols have a shot. They rushed for 266 yards in last week’s win against UAB – but that’s UAB.
“We believe [Tennessee’s] intent will be to run right at us,” said Meyer. “How our interior defensive line performs will be critical.”
Foster has 17 carries for 39 yards in three career games against the Gators, who have limited Tennessee to 92 yards on 69 carries over their last three meetings. The Vols haven’t had a rushing play longer than six yards against Florida in the last two matchups.
Florida, meanwhile, has offensive weapons at every position, but perhaps none more exciting than Percy Harvin. The junior wide receiver also lines up at tailback often. Last year, Harvin was a nightmare for the Vols, scoring a TD and rushing nine times for 75 yards and catching four passes for 120 yards.
This week, Harvin said he is as healthy as he has been since his sophomore year in high school and that the coaching staff was ready to “cut me loose.”
“Yeah, we’re going to involve him a little bit more this week,” Meyer said. “That’s a hell of a toy. That’s a talented guy.”
With an extra week to prepare and more talent at every high-profile position, the Gators will improve to 4-0 in the past four meetings against the Vols and 3-1 ATS in that same stretch.
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