Even though Florida has beaten Tennessee in 16 of the last 17 games they’ve played, the Gators’ recent dominance won’t matter much on Saturday. When the Florida No. 20 travels to face the SEC Volunteers No. 11 on CBS Game of the Week on Saturday, it will be the first time in series history that the Gators have been the double-digit underdogs of the Tennessee. The Vols got off to a 3-0 start to Year 2 under coach Josh Heupel, but if they are to maintain the momentum, they will need to exorcise the demons of past seasons and take care of a Florida team that has already seen its share of ups and downs.
The Gators started the season with a bang by eliminating then-No. 7 Utah 29-26 in freshman coach Billy Napier’s debut. But after reaching No. 12 following that win, Florida lost 26-16 at home to No. 8 Kentucky the following week before earning a 31-28 victory over South Florida in the the third week.
Which version of Florida will appear in a sold-out Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee, is a mystery, and the legitimacy of the Volunteers is also a legitimate question. Victories over MAC foes Ball State and Akron revealed little of their mettle, and an overtime victory in Pittsburgh came as the Panthers treated the injuries of their two best quarterbacks. This meeting has already helped decide the winner of the SEC East on an annual basis. No. 1 Georgia is now the undisputed favorite in the division, but this encounter nonetheless presents itself as a fascinating top-20 battle between long-time rivals.
How to watch Florida vs Tennessee live
Date: Saturday September 24 | Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: Neyland Stadium — Knoxville, Tennessee
TV: SCS | Direct: CBSSports.com, CBS Sports app (free)
Florida vs. Tennessee: Need to Know
Performance by Anthony Richardson: Which version of Florida appears is largely dependent on which version of Anthony Richardson appears. The Florida redshirt sophomore quarterback is 24 of 53 for 255 yards with four interceptions and no touchdown passes in the past two games. In Utah’s victory, however, he put the Gators on their backs by repeatedly delivering clutch moments on the ground and in the air. If Richardson is near his best, Florida is improving dramatically.
Tennessee Defense: After finishing 99th nationally last season in total defense, the Volunteers seem to have improved this season. They currently rank 51st nationally in total defense, but that could be a mirage. While Pitt’s hold to 415 yards in an overtime win in Week 2 seemed to mark progress, the Panthers lost starting quarterback Kedon Slovis to injury just before halftime, and the backup Nick Patti played through an injury in the second half. A good performance here would go a long way to legitimizing the signs of progress seen for the Vols defensively.
Neyland Checker: Tennessee encourages its fans to “Checker Neyland” for the game, assigning fans to wear either orange or white depending on their section. While the pattern created in the stadium makes for an impressive visual, Tennessee’s history when Neyland is checkerboard is well…checkerboard. The team’s Checker Neyland match last season was an infamous loss to Ole Miss when play was halted after fans threw objects on the pitch. Tennessee is 1-1 against Florida in Checker Neyland games, but only 1-4 overall since the tradition began in 2014.
Florida vs Tennessee Prediction, Picks
Featured Game | Tennessee Volunteers vs. Florida Gators
Florida has won 16 of the last 17 games in this series, and the Volunteers have only won this game by more than 10 points once in the past 30 years. History aside, Tennessee’s status as a double-digit favorite seems to overstate its win over a hobbled Pitt team and understate Florida’s victory over Utah. The Gators have looked bad for the past two weeks, but there’s enough talent on the roster — as this win over the Utes shows — that they’ll keep things close against a Tennessee program that’s earlier in its run. reconstruction that a No. 11 ranking might suggest. Prediction: Florida +10.5
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