Week 4 College Football Predictions: Florida Gators vs Tennessee Volunteers

Tennessee Volunteers  players in action

Willie Bee

Wednesday, September 21, 2016 3:34 PM GMT

The early lead in the SEC East is on the line Saturday in Knoxville where Tennessee hosts Florida, and we've got a free NCAA football pick for the battle of unbeatens.

Can the Florida Gators continue their dominance of the Tennessee Volunteers with an upset victory on the road this Saturday?

One of three SEC contests this weekend pitting ranked teams against one another, the battle at Neyland Stadium commences at 3:30 PM (ET) with CBS handling the broadcast duties. BetOnline, one of the top-rated sports books at SBR, sent the Volunteers out as 10 point chalk and that spread has been coming down since then to stand at -6½ on Tuesday morning. Likewise, the total has also dropped from 45 to 43½.

This rivalry has been defined by two long streaks, Tennessee winning the first 10 meetings (1916-53) and Florida taking the last 11 to build a 26-19 advantage in the series. Each of the past two meetings have been 1-point Gator wins, last year's 28-27 decision coming as a 1 point underdog in the NCAA football odds. That final stopped a 6-0-1 ATS run for the visitors and left recent totals 5-1 O/U the last six clashes.

 

How Much Will Gators Miss Del Rio?
The spread has been swinging towards Florida despite the long list of walking wounded the Gators bring into the game. Most important on the list of injuries is the one to starting quarterback Luke Del Rio. The sophomore transfer from Oregon State is expected to miss at least two weeks, and possibly as many as four, with a sprained MCL. He'll be replaced by Austin Appleby, a senior transfer from Purdue.

Also questionable are leading receiver Antonio Callaway (quad) plus defensive backs Chris Williamson (knee) and Joseph Putu (ankle).

Del Rio hasn't been putting up huge numbers, but he has been directing a balanced and mistake-free attack with his two interceptions the only Florida turnovers so far. With Callaway's health in question, we should look for head coach Jim McElwain to go to more running plays having Appleby under center.

 

Slow Offense Has Been Vols' Achilles
Tennessee has several injured starters that also bear watching for any updates. Senior linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, who leads the team in tackles, is nursing a sore shoulder but is listed as probable for the game. Corner Cameron Sutton, another senior who has the only interception for the Vols so far, is out indefinitely with a bum ankle. Defensive tackle Danny O'Brien is questionable.

The Volunteers were able to run the ball effectively against Virginia Tech a couple of weeks ago, but their 45-24 win was greatly assisted by five Hokies fumbles. While all of the blame for two closer-than-expected wins over Appalachian State and Ohio can't be laid at the feet of senior QB Joshua Dobbs, both he and the offensive line have to perform much better this week.

This is one of the lowest totals on the board this week, and a big reason behind that is Florida's stifling defense up to now. The Gators have only allowed two touchdowns in three games, one of them a meaningless score late in the 45-7 win over Kentucky, and it's not like they're facing an offensive juggernaut in Tennessee. Still, on what should be a sunny, warm afternoon in Knoxville, I believe the total is too low which is why my free college football pick is on the 'over.'

 

Free NCAAF Pick: Over 43½ 
Best Line Offered: at BetOnline
Season: 8-10-1 (-2.35)

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