Florida has won eleven consecutive games against the Volunteers (8-3 ATS in that span), and the pressure to end that agonizing losing streak has never been greater in Knoxville. “Everyone understands the magnitude,” Tennessee head coach Butch Jones said. “Everyone knows what this game is . . .Everyone knows what’s at stake.”
Jones is squarely on the hot seat despite starting the season undefeated (3-0) because of his questionable late-game coaching decisions and inability to maximize the talent on the roster.
“To overcome a streak is a huge challenge,” veteran coach David Cutcliffe said. “You get a little bit of that here-we-go-again mentality creep in at the worst of times. I’ve seen it, and it’s pretty difficult to overcome.” Former Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden also discussed how the pressure of ending a prolonged losing streak is difficult to manage. “It does weigh on you because you’re always conscious of it. Everybody reminds you of it.”
Tennessee takes the field without one of its best cornerbacks in Cameron Sutton, who broke his ankle last week and will be out for an extended period of time. Sutton started the first three games and had 8 tackles (two for losses) and one interception. He was also used as a punt and kickoff returner, and his absence is bad news for an already-thin special teams unit that has been riddled with injuries this season.
Speaking of injuries, Florida will be without starting quarterback Luke Del Rio, who sustained a knee injury in last week’s game against North Texas. Backup Austin Appleby is a graduate transfer from Purdue where he started twelve games for the Boilermakers, including making five starts last season. “I’ve come to the University of Florida to play,” Appleby said. “That’s ultimately why I chose to come here. I want to be part of something special.”
Florida possesses an elite defense that is allowing just 4.7 points per game and 130 total yards at 2.6 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 4.9 yards per play against a mediocre defensive squad.
The Gators’ stop unit owns a substantial advantage over a pedestrian Tennessee offense that is 0.1 yards per play better than average (5.1 yards per play against teams that would combine to allow 5.0 yards per play).
From a technical standpoint, Florida is 3-0-1 ATS in its last four trips to Neyland Stadium and have won 19 of the last 23 meetings in this series, with only one loss coming by more than three points. Florida head coach Jim McElwain is 8-1-1 ATS versus SEC opposition, whereas the Volunteers are 0-5 ATS as home favorites of less than ten points versus conference foes.
With all of the pressure on Tennessee (and its coaching staff), take the Gators plus the generous points and invest with confidence.