Florida vs. Tennessee: Pick, prediction, spread, odds, football game time, watch live stream, TV channel

By Adam Silverstein
September 25, 2021
Florida vs. Tennessee: Pick, prediction, spread, odds, football game time, watch live stream, TV channel

Image Credit: Michael Nash

Take a breath because we are only one quarter of the way through this whirlwind 2021 college football season. The No. 11 Florida Gators have ebbed and flowed both when it comes to the season as a whole and within individual games themselves.

Coming off a hard-fought loss to No. 1 Alabama last week, Florida gets to continue its homestand Saturday when the SEC East rival Tennessee Volunteers enter Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for a night game. The Swamp is sold out but how full it will be for this showdown remains to be seen.

Though the Gators have dominated the Vols over most of the last two decades, if this season has taught us one thing, it’s that anything is possible. Florida has won 15 of the last 16 against Tennessee, including eight straight in The Swamp, but UT is 3-0 this season and feeling itself as UF hopes to bounce back after being knocked down a peg last week.

The Gators are also unsure whether they have answers at signal caller as a legitimate quarterback controversy continues. Redshirt junior Emory Jones put together the best outing of his career facing great adversity last week, but he also did not have redshirt freshman sensation Anthony Richardson breathing down his back.

It appears as if Richardson will be active for Saturday’s game against the Vols after missing last week with a strained hamstring. Whether Mullen goes back to playing Richardson in packages, gives him more snaps than he’d been receiving over Jones or perhaps uses Richardson less remains to be seen. One thing is for sure: If Jones struggles again, fans will be clamoring for AR-15.

Perhaps an even bigger question will be how Florida’s defense plays. A unit that struggled massively in 2020 appeared to have its hiccups through the first two games of this season. However, it also held Alabama to just 10 second-half points last week and showed improved play from the secondary. If the back end, which has been ravaged by injuries, can coalesce then UF may be able to find success given the improved play of the front seven.

There’s a ton on the line Saturday in The Swamp as Florida still has SEC Championship Game and College Football Playoff aspirations while welcoming one of its most bitter rivals to town.

What will go down Saturday night when the Gators host the Vols? Let’s find out.

Tale of the tape

No. 11 Florida GatorsTennessee Volunteers
Head coachDan MullenJosh Heupel
Record2-1 (1-0)2-1 (0-0)

Injuries and absences

Probable: QB Anthony Richardson (hamstring)
Questionable (2): OL Stewart Reese (undisclosed), CB Elijah Blades (hamstring)
Out (1): CB Kaiir Elam (knee)
Out for season (2): LB Ventrell Miller (torn biceps) CB Jaydon Hill (knee), DB Kamar Wilcoxson (knee)
Notable inactives (?): To be announced before kickoff

Viewing information

Date: Saturday, Sept. 25 | Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium — Gainesville, Florida [88,548]

TV: ESPN (Joe Tessitore, Greg McElroy, Katie George)
Live stream: Watch ESPN | SiriusXM: 84 | Radio: WRUF, TuneIn
Live updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

Game notes

» Florida is 30-20 all-time against Tennessee with wins in 15 of the last 16 meetings and four straight victories. The Gators are 15-5 against the Volunteers in The Swamp with eight straight home wins since 2005.
» UF has outscored UT by 23.0 points per game under Mullen with a total offense advantage of 114.3 yards per game.
» Under Mullen, Florida is 22-3 when scoring first, 25-2 when leading at halftime, 27-2 when leading after the third quarter, 21-0 when allowing 20 points or fewer and 23-1 when outrushing their opponents (losing to Alabama last week).
» UF is 7-8 when being outrushed by an opponent and 6-5 in games decided by 10 points or less.
» Florida is 6-9 against ranked opponents (2-3 vs. top five teams, 4-6 vs. top 10 teams) and 23-3 against unranked teams under Mullen. It is also 12-1 against nonconference opponents.
» The Gators have scored 24+ points in 29 of their last 32 games.
» Florida has scored 178 offensive touchdowns in 41 games under Mullen (4.3 per game). It scored 93 in 38 games from 2015-17 (2.5). UF has also scored 50+ points five times under Mullen compared to five times over 101 games from 2010-17.
» The Gators have posted 400+ yards of total offense in 13 consecutive games, the longest such streak since at least 1981. Their 666 yards against South Florida in Week 2 were the most in any game under Mullen.
» UF’s 400 yards rushing in Week 1 vs. FAU are the most in program history under Mullen and the most for any FBS team this season. It is second nationally with 335.7 yards rushing per game.
» Florida is one of two FBS teams nationally (Alabama) that has not lost to an opponent that finished the season with a losing record since 2004.
» UF has scored in 413 consecutive games, an NCAA record.

» Last week, Florida hosted the nation’s No. 1 ranked team for the first time since 2002. The Gators are now 3-13 all-time against No. 1 teams. They have never defeated one in the regular season and are 0-5 against such opponents in The Swamp.
» Alabama is the only SEC team that Mullen has yet to defeat in his head coaching career (0-11, 0-2 UF).

Prediction and analysis

Spread: Florida -19 | O/U: 64

From two-touchdown underdogs to nearly three-touchdown favorites in a week. The Gators are, indeed, much better than the Vols entering this game, but three touchdowns is a signifiant spread considering Florida has only beaten Tennessee by that margin once in the last 13 years. Granted, that was under Mullen with a 34-3 win in 2019, but that came with Kyle Trask at quarterback and a much better defense on the other side of the field.

This one will get close to that line. Florida should win by double digits. But expecting to cover that margin given how we’ve seen UF allow scoring when it gets up big is not a gamble I’m willing to take. Plus, given how strong Tennessee is up front on defense, rushing yards may be hard to come by. That directly eats into Florida’s greatest offensive strength.

Then again, if you look at the record below, perhaps it is time to fade me this season (unlike most, when I usually have UF’s number) as this Gators team is completely unpredictable week to week. I’ll also side with the under given the Vols are in for a rude awakening against this defense coming off a couple creampuffs and Pitt to start the season, plus the aforementioned run-stopping ability they’ve displayed this season.

2021 records: ATS picks 0-3 | O/U picks 0-2-1

Odds and ends

» Florida will wear its traditional orange helmets, blue jerseys and white pants for the second straight game in The Swamp wearing unique uniforms for the first two games of the season.

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