Florida at Tennessee
September 18, 2010
By Brian Edwards
Editor's note: Brian Edwards went 3-1 this past Saturday, cashing winners with Oklahoma, South Carolina and Alabama, while Miami was his lone loser at Ohio St. On Thursday, he banged the Cincy-NC ST. 'under' for another winner. Don't miss out on his pay-if-it-wins-only selection for tonight!
Back in the 1990s, the winner of this rivalry game could just about go ahead and book its trip to the SEC Championship Game. However, times have changed, particularly up on Rocky Top.
Tennessee (1-1 straight up, 0-1 against the spread) is a double-digit home underdog for the second straight Saturday. Guess how many times that's happened before? Never. The Volunteers have their third head coach in the last 21 months and their AD Mike Hamilton has to be on a boiling hot seat.
And, oh yeah, UT still hasn’t beaten Urban Meyer in five attempts. In fact, Meyer owns an incredible 14-1 record against Florida’s three biggest rivals – UT, UGA and FSU.
If the odds are any indicator, that record should be 15-1 once the dust settles early Saturday evening at Neyland Stadium. As of Thursday afternoon, most betting shops had Florida (2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS) listed as a 14-point ‘chalk’ with a total of 46. Bettors can take the Vols to win outright for a monster plus-425 payout (risk $100 to win $425).
Florida looked like garbage in a season-opening 34-12 win over Miami (OH.) that was much closer than the final score indicated. The Gators could only muster a pathetic 25 yards of total offense in the first three quarters. Even worse, they had eight fumbles that were mostly created by confusion with the center-to-quarterback exchange from out of the shotgun formation.
Things weren’t much better in the first half last week against South Florida. The Bulls jumped out to a 7-0 lead and UF didn’t get even until John Brantley found Carl Moore for an 11-yard scoring strike late in the second quarter.
In the second half, junior running back Jeff Demps took over to lead UF to a 38-14 win over USF as a 14 1/2-point home ‘chalk.’ Demps put the Gators ahead for good when he busted loose for a 62-yard touchdown run down the sideline early in the third quarter.
Demps finished the day with 11 carries for 139 yards, but his contributions didn’t end there. He also had a 54-yard kickoff return and a 21-yard reception. Brantley completed 18-of-31 throws for 172 yards and two TDs without being intercepted. Moore had five catches for 40 yards, including a leaping grab to keep a scoring drive alive on a fourth-and-three play.
As much as the offense has struggled in two games, UF’s defense has been the exact opposite. This unit has already bagged eight interceptions, including a pair of pick-sixes for scores (one from Janoris Jenkins in Week 1 and another from Justin Trattou vs. USF).
Derek Dooley’s squad got off to a strong start with a 50-0 win over UT-Martin in its opener at Neyland Stadium. The results were the same for the first 27 minutes of last week’s home game against Oregon.
The Vols dominated most of the first half, jumping out to a 13-3 lead behind 111 rushing yards in the first quarter alone from junior RB Tauren Poole. With 2:56 left until halftime, the Ducks got a 42-yard field goal from Rob Beard to narrow the deficit to 13-6.
After forcing a three and out, Oregon took over at its own 38 with 1:55 remaining until halftime. Four plays later, Darron Thomas perfectly lofted a 27-yard strike to David Paulson to get the Ducks even going into intermission.
From there, it was all Oregon. The Ducks would outscore the Vols 35-0 over the final 30 minutes to capture a 48-13 win as 10 ½-point road favorites. What started as a promising night for UT ended with empty seats galore and a deflating defeat.
On the bright side, Poole finished with 162 yards and one TD on 21 carries. He goes into Week 3 leading the SEC in rushing yards with 272 and a 6.8 yards-per-carry average. Junior QB Matt Simms, a juco transfer who started his career at Louisville, has completed 29-of-53 passes for 332 yards with one TD pass and one interception. Simms will have to go one more week without starting WR Gerald Jones, who is still nursing a broken bone in his left hand. Jones led UT in receptions (46) and receiving yards (680) last year.
Florida will also be missing one of its best playmakers. Chris Rainey might’ve been ‘out’ due to a concussion he suffered against USF last week, but all doubt was removed Tuesday morning when he was arrested for stalking his ex-girlfriend. Rainey has made six catches for 34 yards and one TD.
In Rainey’s absence, CB Janoris Jenkins will take over the punt-returning duties. Jenkins had a 30-yard return in the second half against USF after Rainey had left the game with a concussion. Omarius Hines will move over from tight end to start for Rainey as the slot receiver.
CBS will have television coverage at 3:30 p.m. Eastern.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
--The last time UT beat UF was in 2004 when the Vols won a controversial 30-28 decision thanks to a last-second field goal. The Gators got completely hosed by the officials when they failed to wind the clock before a UF punt in the final minute. The error, which the SEC later acknowledged, saved the Vols about 35 seconds. They prevailed on a kick as time expired.
--Some UT fans might call the ’04 result poetic justice due to the controversial finish that went UF’s way in 2000. That’s when Jesse Palmer connected with Jabar Gaffney for a go-ahead touchdown in the final minute. Whether or not Gaffney ever had possession of the ball is up for debate and remember, this was before we had instant replay. But here’s the thing that the Volunteer faithful always forget: Gaffney’s catch came on 2nd and goal with the Gators trailing by three. Therefore, even if Gaffney’s game-winning grab was nullified, UF would’ve still had a chance to score a TD on third and goal, and it could’ve kicked a chip-shot field goal to force overtime if the third-down play failed.
--Florida safety Will Hill is expected to start after missing the first two games of the season due to an unspecified suspension.
--The ‘under’ has cashed in six of the last eight head-to-head meetings between UT and UF.
--Dating back to last season, the ‘over’ is 6-1 in Tennessee’s last seven games with a total.
--During Meyer’s six-year tenure, UF players have been arrested 30 times.
--In UF’s last trip to Neyland in 2008, it dealt out woodshed treatment. Brandon James returned the opening kickoff into UT territory and several plays later, the Gators were in the end zone. The blowout was ‘on’ at that point, as they cruised to a 30-6 victory as 7 ½-point road favorites.
--As a home underdog on Derek Dooley’s watch from 2007-2009, La. Tech posted a perfect 6-0 spread record.
--The NCAA denied an appeal and upheld its four-game suspension of Georgia WR A.J. Green, who won't be able to make his season debut until an Oct. 2 game at Colorado.
--After demolishing Cal 52-31 last night, we need to start taking note of Colin Kapernick (sleeper Heisman contender?) and the Nevada Wolf Pack. Might Chris Ault's team still be unbeaten when it hosts Boise St. on Nov. 26? Nevada's toughest tests between now and then are at BYU (9/25), at Hawaii (10/16) and at Fresno St. (11/13).
Brian Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For daily sports gambling analysis, follow Brian Edwards on twitter at Vegasbedwards.