Florida vs. Tennessee is one of the best college football rivalries in the country. They'll renew their rivalry on Saturday afternoon when the Gators travel to Knoxville for a showdown in Neyland Stadium. College Gameday will be there on site to preview the game. This will be Florida's first road test of the season.
Florida is coming in at 2-1 with wins over #7 Utah and South Florida, while Tennessee is 3-0 with their biggest win being over Pittsburgh. Billy Napier has changed the culture within the Florida Gators program compared to what it was over the past four years. Players are buying in and trusting in what he's doing, but there's still work to be done in that aspect. Josh Heupel is in his second season at Tennessee and he's building a great program. He took over a Vols program that was sputtering under Butch Jones. Heupel has really turned the program around since he's gotten there.
If you're a college football fan, you know the history of Florida and Tennessee, and what this rivalry means not only for both programs, but for the SEC. Redshirt sophomore Anthony Richardson will be starting his fifth career game, and his first career start in a true road game. Junior quarterback Hendon Hooker returns for Tennessee and has established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC. Both quarterbacks have great arms and the ability to make plays with their legs.
Anthony Richardson started of the season with a bang, making enough plays to get a huge win over then #7 Utah. Since that game, he hasn't been the same player. Through three games, he still hasn't thrown a touchdown, but has also thrown four interceptions while completing only 53% of his passes. From what I've seen, it looks like he's been playing hurt as well. He hasn't utilized his legs as as much either, and that's due to the fact that backup quarterback Jack Miller is also out with a thumb injury. For Florida to be the team they wanna be, he has to be involved in the running game.
Tennessee came into the season as one of the sleepers to challenge Georgia in the SEC East. Along with Hendon Hooker returning, they also added dynamic USC WR transfer Bru McCoy. Defensively, Tennessee has been really good at rushing the passer and getting sacks. There are two areas of weakness I've seen from their defense so far, their ability to stop the run and their secondary. Florida has to be able to take advantage of those areas if they wanna win the game
I expect Florida to try to run the ball as much as possible with Montrell Johnson, Trevor Etienne, Nay'Quan Wright and Anthony Richardson. They have to try to slow the game down and wear the defense out. I expect the defense to try to get some pressure on Hendon Hooker with Brenton Cox Jr., Gervon Dexter Sr. and Princely Umanmielen. Desmond Watson is gonna play a huge role as well because he has the ability to clog up the running lanes. Ventrell Miller is gonna try to play, which is huge for the Gators because they need him on the field to get the defense in position and get some key stops.
I expect the Florida-Tennessee game to be a very close game between two really good teams. It's a rivalry game, so anything can happen. Tennessee is a 10.5 point favorite, but Florida has won five straight and 16 of the last 17 in the series. I believe whoever has the most success running the football will win the game. If Anthony Richardson plays like he did against Utah and Florida is able to run the ball, I like their chances to win.
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