Tennessee travels to face Florida this week in an SEC showdown that’s sure to excite. In this article, find a prediction for this game and best bets from our staff for Tennessee Vs. Florida.
Tennessee Vs. Florida Prediction & Best Bet
When these teams faced off last season, Tennessee won a 38-33 thriller in Knoxville. Both quarterbacks in that game – Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker and Florida’s Anthony Richardson – are now in the NFL, and new faces are replacing them under center in this year’s game.
Joe Milton takes over for Tennessee, but he hasn’t been asked to pass a whole lot yet – the Vols have a pass play rate of just 39.5%, which ranks 117th in the FBS. In what should be a difficult road environment, there will be pressure on Milton to lead this offense up and down the field.
In addition to Hooker, Tennessee lost offensive coordinator Alex Golesh, who is now the head coach at South Florida, and the team’s top two wide receivers and starting right tackle, all of whom are now in the NFL. After home games against Virginia and Austin Peay, we don’t yet know how those changes will take shape.
Florida’s defense has been impressive so far as they rank 7th in success rate and 24th in EPA per play allowed. New defensive coordinator Austin Armstrong, the orchestrator of the imposing “Nasty Bunch” defense at Southern Miss last season, has transformed a very talented defense into one that plays like it.
Florida brought in Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz to replace Richardson, and while the road game at Utah was a tough one, the Gators are using Mertz the way I had hoped – he has a 39.4% play action rate and is completing 70.8% of his passes with a 10.0 yards per attempt average on those drop backs.
The market hasn’t yet properly accounted for the worse Tennessee roster and the improved cohesion at Florida. I’ll take advantage and take the points with the Gators at home. I played this at +7.5 before the season started on a look-ahead line, but I’d play it at the current 6.5 as I believe the Gators are very live dogs in this game.
Tennessee Vs. Florida Prediction & Best Bet: Florida +6.5
Tennessee Vs. Florida Betting Odds
The odds for this game had Tennessee priced as high as 8-point road favorites at various points, and the look ahead line before the season started was Tennessee -7.5. However, it’s now been bought down to 6.5 points in favor of the Vols. The total of 58.5 points suggests that the sportsbooks are expecting another shootout after these teams combined for 71 points in 2022.
Tennessee Vs. Florida Key Matchups
When these two SEC foes square up on Saturday, there will be tons of key matchups to focus on. Let’s take a look at a couple of the matchups that could be a deciding factor in which team comes out on top here.
Princely Umanmielen vs. Jeremiah Crawford
It could be a long day for Joe Milton in the pocket with Princely Umanmielen bearing down on him. A player NFL scouts will surely be watching on Saturday, Umanmielen has tremendous ability to convert speed to power and is a handful for any opposing offensive tackle, let alone Tennessee’s current right tackle, Jeremiah Crawford.
Replacing Darnell Wright, a first round NFL draft pick, was never going to be easy for Tennessee, but Crawford’s play is deeply concerning. He finished last week against Austin Peay with a 0.0 PFF pass-blocking grade as he allowed three pressures on 19 pass-blocking snaps.
Florida’s new look defense under Armstrong thrives on havoc, and Umanmielen provides much of it. If Crawford continues to play the way he did last week, Tennessee’s offensive game plan will shift to bring in extra protection for Milton, thereby reducing the overall explosiveness of their approach.
Princely Umanmielen sack on 3rd down🐊
One of “my guys” this draft cycle pic.twitter.com/jqL3f14Hg7
— RanDynasty (@ran_dynasty) September 10, 2023
Montrell Johnson and Trevor Etienne vs. Tennessee’s run defense
The play-action heavy offense that Billy Napier wants to run in Florida relies on a consistent run game, and their backfield tandem of Johnson and Etienne certainly provide it. Both running backs have over 100 yards and are averaging over six yards per carry, which isn’t a surprise after they combined for over 1,500 yards last season.
Tennessee’s run defense has shown some cracks so far – they have 12 missed tackles through two games and rank 120th in rushing explosiveness allowed. That lackadaisical effort won’t fly in this matchup, and if Johnson and Etienne can find success, there’s a strong chance Florida can pull off the outright upset.
— Weiss (@ZackaryWeiss_) September 10, 2023