Tennessee (2-1) and Florida (2-1) will square off tonight at 7:00 PM ET on ESPN. Before tonight's game, the VR2 on SI staff shares their prediction and why.
I have liked Tennessee's chance against Florida since before the season started. Florida was impressive against Alabama last weekend, but I am not going to overreact to that yet. I want to see if Dan Mullen can get his team up for another high intensity environment on the heels of a tough loss and Emory Jones can build on a career week. I think Tennessee could have some early success, but this all comes down to Josh Heupel's offensive success. I don't think I expected to say that before the start of the season. I still think this is Tennessee's best chance to pull an upset, but that doesn't mean it is going to happen. Florida 38 Tennessee 21
To me, this game comes down one focal point above all others: quarterback play. Tennessee has struggled mightily in this area, regardless of who is under center. Joe Milton III and Hendon Hooker have both proven unable to hit open targets, thus far, so I’ll believe the same — especially given the environment we expect on Saturday — until either one proves otherwise. Meanwhile, Emory Jones led the Gators admirably against No. 1 Alabama, and Florida’s option attack and run defense will both be hard to overcome. The Gators win this one going away, and they spoil Josh Heupel’s conference opener to make it 16 wins out of the last 17 games against Tennessee. Florida 49-14
Tennessee is able to match Florida score for score in the first quarter, but in the meat of the game the Gators will pull away. Between Florida’s quarterback Emory Jones being able to attack the middle of the field to Florida’s pass rush stymying Tennessee’s rushing attack no matter the quarterback for the Vols, the Gators will pull away with a comfortable win at home. Expect to see both Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson on the field as well for Florida, which will only make it tougher for the Vols to fight for a road upset. Florida 42-14
Tennessee needs two things offensively to happen. Establish a run game and quality QB play. The o line being more healthy this week may may an impact on that, but if Florida shuts down the run game and forces Tennessee to the air, it could be a long day for the Vols if the QB play is not up to par. The defense has to limit the big plays, but the offense can help on this. Even if the Vols come up short on some point, sustain some drives to give the defense a rest and try to prevent the game from getting out of hand early. Florida 52-20