Florida vs. Tennessee prediction, pick, odds, spread, how to watch live stream, game time, TV channel

By OnlyGators.com Staff
September 16, 2023
Florida vs. Tennessee prediction, pick, odds, spread, how to watch live stream, game time, TV channel

Image Credit: Michael Nash

Momentum may not be on the side of the Florida Gators but history is undoubtedly in their favor Saturday night as the No. 11 Tennessee Volunteers visit Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. The Gators have won nine straight over the Vols in The Swamp since 2003 and enter Saturday seeking to avoid consecutive losses to their long-time SEC East rivals for the first time since 2003-04.

Beyond that, Florida head coach Billy Napier continues to seek a signature win, which the Gators have not obtained since the first week of the 2022 season. Getting a ranked Tennessee in The Swamp at night is as good an opportunity as any, especially with Florida seemingly healthy with nearly ever planned 2023 starter active for the game.

Napier is just 1-5 against AP Top 25 opponents and 0-4 against UF’s traditional rivals.

The Gators followed a massively disappointing effort at Utah with a dominant performance against McNeese in which many of its Week 1 issues were cleaned up. However, the Vols are obviously a substantially more difficult opponent. As such, it will be intriguing to find out whether Florida has indeed tightened up as a program following a bevy of miscues that cost it a winnable game in the opener or whether Tennessee will be too much for it to handle after a close and exciting meeting last season.

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

Don’t miss our Florida Football Friday Final covering thoughts from Napier and multiple Florida players entering this Week 3 showdown. Plus, take a look at the updated Gators depth chart.

Tale of the tape

Florida GatorsNo. 11 Tennessee Vols
Head coachBilly NapierJosh Heupel

Injuries and absences

Questionable (1): WR Thai Chiaokhiao-Bowman (lower body)
Out (4): Ja’Markis Weston (upper body), TE Keon Zipperer (lower body), TE Tony Livingston (upper body), OL Caden Jones (foot)
Out for season (2): DL Justus Boone (knee), RB Cam Carroll (knee)

Notable actives (5): C Kingsley Eguakun, WR Marcus Burke, QB Jack Miller III, WR Kahleil Jackson, CB Devin Moore

Viewing information

Date: Saturday, Sept. 16 | Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium — Gainesville, Florida [88,548]

TV: ESPN (Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Holly Rowe)
Live stream: ESPN+ | SiriusXM: 133/190 | Radio: WRUF, TuneIn
Live updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

Game notes

» Florida is 31-21 all-time against Tennessee with a 16-2 record in the last 18 meetings and a 16-5 record on Florida Field.
» The Gators have won nine straight over the Vols in The Swamp with the last such loss coming in 2003. UF has not lost consecutive games against UT since 2003-04.
» Florida has won 75.2% of their games in The Swamp all-time, and it holsd the second-best home winning percentage in the nation since 1990 at 175-34 (.837).
» UF opened the season unranked in either of the main top 25 polls for the second straight year and third time in seven seasons. This is the first time the Gators are unranked and the Vols ranked during their meeting since 1971.
» Florida entered the season with 35 new scholarship players on the roster, tied for 12th most in the FBS. It also had just 115 combined starts returning, second-fewest in the nation, and only 69 returning players, ninth-fewest in the nation.
» The Gators under Napier are 2-5 when opponents score first, 0-4 when scoring less than 21 points, 3-7 when allowing 21+ points, 1-8 when tied or trailing after the third quarter and 1-5 when being outrushed. UF is 6-0 when leading after the third quarter and 7-2 when rushing for at least 150 yards.
» Florida is 7-16 against ranked opponents (2-5 vs. top five teams, 5-7 vs. top 10 teams) and 33-10 against unranked opponents since 2018. UF went 1-5 against AP Top 25 teams last season.
» The Gators have scored in 438 consecutive games, an NCAA record.

Prediction and analysis

Spread: Florida +5.5 | O/U: 57

Let’s start with the total. The Gators have yet to prove they can score against a Power Five — let alone an FBS — opponent this season. Meanwhile, the Vols have been relatively unimpressive through two weeks, particularly when it comes to their offensive line and quarterback Joe Milton’s accuracy. This game has only eclipsed 57 points three times since 2008, and while one of those occasions was last year, neither Anthony Richardson nor Hendon Hooker (let alone Jalin Hyatt) will be on the field Saturday night. As such, the under is the play, even though it’s come down two points.

Now in terms of the spread … The biggest issue for Florida in this game may actually be Tennessee’s defense, which is out to create havoc on every play. Graham Mertz struggles massively when facing pressure, and his entire career he has been prone to taking sacks and throwing interceptions. Until we have data points that prove he has reversed those trends in an orange-and-blue uniform, we must assume he will continue to struggle against the pass rush.

If the Gators can keep the ball moving with running backs Montrell Johnson Jr. and Trevor Etienne, that could take a lot of pressure off Mertz. However, while they faced far less-talented rushers, the Vols have only allowed 174 yards on the ground this season. Florida ran all over McNeese, but it picked up just 13 yards rushing at Utah and gave up on toting the rock early in the game. Napier promised after Week 1 such a scenario would not happen again, but what if UF gets behind and has to play catch up?

If the Gators remained a 7- or even 6.5-point underdog like how they opened the week, the home team absolutely would have been the play here. However, now that the spread is under a touchdown, the Vols simply seem like the better bet given what we have seen from these programs over the last couple years. Of course, covering the line is not what Florida wants anyway. UF sits at +180 straight up; if that gets to +200 or better either before kickoff or early in the first quarter on a live line, that would be a solid play.

2023 records: ATS picks 1-1 | O/U picks 1-1

Odds and ends

» Uniforms: Florida will wear blue jerseys, blue pants and orange helmets. (Fun fact: UF will not wear orange jerseys or pants at all this season.)
» Mr. 2-Bits: Trey Burton will serve in the honorary role on Saturday night.

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