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These teams have gone in opposite directions since Florida emasculated the Vols a year ago. After destroying the hearts and eating the souls of Vols nation, the Gators lost six of their last nine games to finish the season last year. And the Vols? They won five games in their last two months of the season to shock the SEC as a seven-win team in rebuilding mode. Josh Heupel deserves all the credit in the world, as he’s transitioned this Tennessee defense more effectively than Caitlyn Jenner’s surgeons. Tennessee is giving up 14.3 points per game, down from 29.1 last season. The Vols are allowing 23.9 percent of opponent third-down conversions, down from 42.1 last season. Tennessee’s offense has been arguably more impressive, averaging fifty-two points per game, good for fourth in the nation. Hendon Hooker is climbing up NFL draft boards like he’s hiking Mount Vesuvius. Hooker has thrown for 844 yards at a sixty-nine (nice) percent clip with six touchdowns and zero picks. In his fourteen starts at Tennessee in Heupel’s fast-paced offense, Hooker has thirty-five passing touchdowns against just three interceptions. Even when he’s not lighting the world on fire, he lives up to his last name by getting the job done.
And while things look sunny on the Rocky top, the Gators haven’t looked this weak since the late Steve Irwin was hunting them. After a surprisingly great week one performance in which Anthony Richardson looked like a potential Heisman candidate, Florida dropped a lousy game against Kentucky and almost lost to USF last weekend. Yes, you read that right, USF, the team that had lost twenty-three of their previous twenty-four games against FBS opponents going into the game. Anthony Richardson’s fall from grace has been up there with Oscar Pistorious. In his last two games, Richardson is twenty-four of fifty-three for 255 yards, zero touchdowns, and four INTs. Florida’s defense, who ESPN was kissing on the mouth after their upset over Utah, just gave up twenty-eight points to a terrible USF team. Vegas likes the Vols -9.5, and I think they win this game by more than two touchdowns. The difference in quarterback talent between these teams is noticeable, and Josh Heupel will get his first big game win as hundreds of thousands of drunk fans in Knoxville wear checkered orange. Take the Vols to win, cover, and take your free $200 from BetMGM!