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Tennessee hosts Florida in Week 4.

The Tennessee Volunteers (3-0 SU, 3-0 ATS) look to extend their season-opening win streak to four games when they open their SEC conference schedule Saturday with a visit from the Florida Gators (2-1, 1-2). The Volunteers rolled to an easy 63-6 victory over Akron last weekend and rank fourth in the nation with 52 points scored per game. The Gators edged South Florida 31-28 but have struggled at the sportsbooks, where they have covered just once in their past 10 outings.

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Florida vs Tennessee Opening Odds

The Volunteers have made significant gains since opening as 7.5-point home favorites, quickly rocketing to their current position as 10.5-point chalk. The total has also risen to 63.5 since opening at 63. In addition to remaining undefeated on the scoreboard, Tennessee also improved to a perfect 3-0 against the spread with last weekend’s win over the Zips as massive 47.5-point chalk.

Now pegged as double-digit chalk for the third time this season, the Volunteers have also climbed to No. 11 on the AP Top 25 rankings. Conversely, the Gators once again disappointed sports bettors last weekend when they eked out a narrow win over South Florida while favored by 23.5 points, and have dipped to No. 20 in the rankings. 

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Gators Hampered By Richardson’s Unforced Errors 

The big question facing the Gators is which version of quarterback Anthony Richardson will show up for Saturday afternoon’s contest. Richardson turned heads in his season-opening debut as the team’s undisputed starter, confidently leading the Florida attack and running for three scores in a 29-26 upset win over Utah as a 2.5-point underdog.

However, the sophomore pivot has struggled since. Richardson tossed a pair of picks while struggling to move the ball in a brutal 26-16 loss to Kentucky two weeks ago, and his error-filled play last weekend almost cost the Gators the win for a second straight week. For the second outing in a row, Richardson tossed a pick-six, and powered the Gators to just four first downs after recess. 

Fortunately for the Gators, he was bailed out by a timely interception and a steady performance by rusher Trevor Etienne, who scampered for 56 yards and a late score that proved to be the winner. 

Can Volunteers Extend Early Dominance Into Conference Play?

Things have gone exceedingly better for the Volunteers, who have outscored opponents by a wide 159-43 margin during their 3-0 start. Granted, two of those victories came against Ball State and Akron. And the Volunteers needed overtime to get past No. 17 Pittsburgh in a 34-27 win two weeks ago. However, considering the checkered results this team produced last season, there is plenty of reason for Tennessee backers to be hopeful.

Quarterback Hendon Hooker enjoyed another big day, racking up 298 passing yards and twice connecting with Jalin Hyatt, who set a collegiate career high with 166 receiving yards. And for a third straight week, the Tennessee ground game continued to roll, compiling 238 rushing yards and five scoring runs, including two each from Jaylen Wright and Dylan Sampson.

However, consistent success has eluded the Volunteers when facing SEC conference rivals, posting consecutive outright wins just once during their current 5-11 SU run, and tallying just one win in 17 dates with Florida since 2004. 

Florida: Keys To Win

While a return to form by Anthony Richardson would give this team a lift, head coach Billy Napier must prepare for the worst. With just 423 passing yards and four picks to date, Richardson has quickly played his way out of the Heisman conversation.

Things could get tough for Richardson against a Volunteers defensive line that manhandled Panthers pivots Kedon Slovis and Nick Patti in their narrow Week 2 win. That means a steady diet of carries for Etienne and Montrell Johnson Jr., each of whom produced in the clutch in last week’s win.

Tennessee: Keys To Win

While Richardson provides a far more mobile threat than any passer they have seen this season, the Volunteers will be aiming to harass the struggling pivot all afternoon. On offense, this team must avoid the slow start that almost proved costly in their win over Pittsburgh.

Indeed, drawing first blood will add to the enormous pressure on Anthony Richardson, with the goal of generating more unforced errors by the beleaguered Gators pivot.  

College Football Computer Pick: Florida +10.5

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Shark Bites
  • Florida is 1-9 ATS in its past 10 games.
  • Tennessee is 1-7 SU in its last 8 at home vs Florida.
  • The OVER is 6-1 in Tennessee’s last 7 at home vs an SEC foe.