Sept. 24, 2021
The SEC will heat up on Saturday from "The Swamp" as No. 11 Florida Gators (2-1) will host the Tennessee Volunteeers (2-1) in a primetime matchup.
Oddsmakers aren't expecting a tight matchup in the conference rivalry game from Gainesville, with the Gators listed close to three-touchdown favorites over the Vols.
Tennessee Volunteers vs. Florida Gators Best Bets
Score Prediction: 41-17 (Halftime 24-6)
Best Bet: Gators 1st Quarter, Gators 1st Half
In a home game vs. Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and in Week 2 at South Florida, UF scored 14 points in the first quarter and easily covered the spread as a single-digit 'chalk' for first-quarter wagers. Likewise, the Gators took the money as 13.5 and 17-point 'chalk' in the first half against both the Owls and the Bulls when they led 14-0 and 21-3 at halftime, respectively. In both of those instances, UF ended up allowing backdoor covers for the game in wins by scores of 35-14 and 42-20.
Although I believe Dan Mullen's squad will more than likely cover for the game this time around, I feel more confident backing the Gators in both the first quarter and the first half. I've already wagered on Florida -11 in the first half. The first-quarter number hadn't been released as of Wednesday, but it's probably going to be six or 6.5.
It almost certainly will be less than seven but as long as it's seven or fewer, we're also bullish on the Gators in the opening stanza. If this were a noon Eastern kick, I think the likelihood of UF (and its crowd) being flat would be higher.
The 7:00 p.m. Eastern start is helpful to the home team and you can see below that over 90K should be amped up at night!
Tennessee Volunteers vs. Florida Gators Betting Analysis
While I beleive Florida will earn the "W" in this matchup, arguments can always be made for both teams. Listed below are my thoughts on why the Vols could sneak in a cover and also more betting analysis on the Gators too.
Why Tennessee will Cover
After gunning for Alabama since losing 52-46 in last year's SEC Championship Game, Florida falls into a vintage letdown scenario here.
Although Tennessee hasn't faced tough competition in getting off to a 2-1 start in the Josh Heupel Era, it seems to have found a reliable quarterback. Hendon Hooker is completing 70.2 percent of his passes and has thrown for 392 yards with a 5/1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The former Virginia Tech signal caller also has 113 rushing yards and one TD while averaging a team-high 6.3 yards per carry. For his career, Hooker has 25/8 TD-INT ratio with 16 rushing TDs.
There are whispers out of Knoxville that QB Joe Milton, who was injured in Week 2 vs. Pitt, returned to practice Wednesday and could reclaim his starting role. Milton has more speed than Hooker, offering big-play capability with his legs. Both of UT's running backs have been productive.
Jabari Small had 116 rushing yards and one TD on 22 carries in a 38-6 home win over Bowling Green. The Vols are ranked 15th in the nation in scoring with their 42.7 points-per-game average. They're ranked fifth in the country in rushing defense, limiting opponents to merely 54.3 yards per game. UT is No. 17 in the nation in total defense and No. 22 in scoring 'D' (15.7 PPG).
The Vols offense has been very strong on the ground this season and RB Tiyon Evans is a player to watch. (AP
Why Florida will Cover
QB Emory Jones played his best game in last week's 31-29 home loss vs. Alabama. After throwing four interceptions in his first two starts, his confidence needed a boost and he got that with last week's performance. Although we won't know for sure until later in the week, there's optimism that QB Anthony Richardson will be ready to go Saturday.
With 15 wins over Tennessee in the last 16 head-to-head meetings, including 10 wins by double-digit margins in the last 14 victories, UF has owned this rivalry in recent memory. The Gators became the first Alabama opponent during Nick Saban's tenure to rush for more than 200 yards and limit the Crimson Tide to fewer than 100 rushing yards.
They're ranked second in the nation in rushing yards and eighth in total offense. After giving up 21 points to Alabama in the first quarter, UF's defense played terrific in the game's final 45 minutes and limited the Tide to just 10 add-on points.
The Gators are 9-7-1 ATS in 17 games as home favorites during head coach Dan Mullen's tenure, while the Volunteers are 13-7-1 ATS in 21 games as road underdogs since 2011.
Plus, UT is 2-7 ATS in its last nine games as a double-digit 'dog.
Florida RB Dameon Pierce has been tough to stop as he leads the team with five rushing touchdowns. (AP)
Tennessee Volunteers vs. Florida Gators Betting Odds
If you check out the VI Matchups Index and view our Betting Trends Movements for this matchup, you'll see that the Vols are getting plenty of attention as road underdogs.
Tennessee is 70% while Florida is 30% on the point-spread, yet the number has moved up. This is a perfect example of reverse line movement where the overall bets are on the Vols but the sharp money is on the Gators.
Florida opened on Sunday afternoon as a 17-point home favorite and the number has been pushed up to -19 as of Thursday.
Backing the Vols for the outright victory should return you odds as high as 8/1 come Saturday afternoon. If you just want to toss UF into a parlay or straight up wager, a $100 wager would net you close to $8.33 on the Gators victory.
SEC Week 3 Best Bets
Check out all of my SEC Best Bets with host Kevin Rogers on the VI YouTube channel.
Tennessee Volunteers vs. Florida Gators Betting Resources
Inside the Betting Stats - Vols vs. Gators
(Straight Up - SU, Against the Spread - ATS)
Key Players to Watch
Tennessee vs. Florida Betting Trends
Last 5 Meetings
Total Talk (O/U)
Oddsmakers sent out a high total of 67 ½ for this SEC battle but the number is sitting at 63 as of Thursday evening. Total bettors have seen a stalemate in this series with the ‘over-under’ going 10-10 in the last 20 encounters. The low side is on a 3-1 run in the last four meetings and last year’s encounter had a closing number of 63.
The Vols have watched the 'over' go 2-1 this season and when tested against a quality opponent, they allowed 41 points to Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Florida is 2-1 to the 'under' and its defense has helped that cause. The team allowed 17 PPG in its first two games before surrendering 31 to Alabama, who will likely finish 2021 as a Top-5 scoring offense.
Based on our Betting Trends, 94% of the money is on the Over 63 in this matchup between the Gators and Vols.
Saturday's meeting will be the first between Gators head coach Dan Mullen and Tennessee's Josh Heupel. When assistants coaches, the pair did square off against one another in the 2009 BCS National Championship game. Mullwen was the offensive coordinator for Florida while Heupel was the quarterbacks coach for Oklahoma. Neither offense was great in the game but Florida managed to do more in a 24-14 win.
Mullen has won three straight versus Tennessee during his tenure with the Gators and he also beat the Vols in one matchup when he was the head coach at Mississippi State.