Florida at Tennessee Spread, Odds, Public Betting Trends & Matchup Print
Written by Anthony Rome   
Saturday, 20 September 2008 02:00
NCAAF Headline News

SEC Showdown

Before Urban Meyer was hired, Florida had lost three of its last four meetings with Tennessee in a conference clash that often has helped decide the SEC East.

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Meyer has helped tip the rivalry the other way.

He'll look to stay perfect in four meetings with the Volunteers on Saturday when his fourth-ranked Gators travel to Knoxville in the conference opener for both teams.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Florida –7.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 77% of bets for this game have been placed on Florida –7.5 (View College Football bet percentages).

Either Florida (2-0) or Tennessee has played in 13 of the 16 SEC championship games since the conference added the game in 1992, the same year coach Phillip Fulmer took over the Volunteers.

Fulmer won his first game against Florida, but lost the next five and seven of eight overall when Steve Spurrier was coaching the Gators. Fulmer got the best of Spurrier in their final meeting, in 2001, and Tennessee also beat Florida twice in the three years Ron Zook was coaching the Gators.

But since Meyer's arrival, Florida hasn't lost to Tennessee in the series that has kicked off its conference schedule for 11 of the last 12 seasons. The Gators won 16-7 at home in 2005, came back from 10 down to win 21-20 in Knoxville in 2006 - eventually going on to win the national title - and stomped the Volunteers 59-20 last season in Gainesville behind four touchdowns from Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow.

"Certainly, this wasn't the representation that we intended it to be down here today," Fulmer said after that loss.

Meyer, despite having come out on top all three times he's faced Fulmer's Volunteers (1-1), said this week he isn't taking that edge for granted.

"It's as talented of a team as I've ever coached against," Meyer said of Tennessee. "That's from the first game to this game."

Last year's win over the Volunteers was part of the Gators' 4-0 start, but they lost four of their final nine games, including a Capital One Bowl defeat to Michigan.

With Tebow winning the school's third Heisman and 16 starters returning, expectations were high again in Gainesville entering Meyer's fourth season. Florida opened with a 56-10 rout of Hawaii, then used a 17-point fourth quarter to put away rival Miami 26-3 on Sept. 6.

Tebow had nine touchdowns - three rushing - through two games in 2007, and though he's only thrown for three TDs this year, the junior thinks the impressive fourth quarter against the Hurricanes was the first step on the way to big things for his offense.

"We got a lot of momentum going and that was huge," Tebow said. "When you're dealing with 18- to 22-year-olds, momentum is everything. And when you lose it, you have to find a way to regain it. We were able to do that and get things moving again."

With a defense that has seven sacks, six forced turnovers and two interception returns for touchdowns through two games, Tebow hasn't had much to worry about even when the offense hasn't been clicking.

One of the biggest concerns for Tennessee, aside from trying to keep Tebow bottled up, will be receiver Percy Harvin.

Recognized as one of the fastest players in the country, Harvin didn't play in the opener and only touched the ball six times against Miami. But he's ready to face the Volunteers, who couldn't catch him last season. Harvin had nine carries for 75 yards and a touchdown in last year's meeting, and also caught four balls for 120 yards.

"Yeah, we're going to involve him a little bit more this week," Meyer said. "That's a hell of a toy. That's a talented guy."

Tennessee will carry some momentum into the game after an overtime loss at UCLA in its opener. The Volunteers had two weeks to recover, and did so convincingly in their home opener last Saturday against UAB.

Tennessee had 548 yards of offense - its most in nearly two years - and beat the Blazers 35-3.

"We're headed in a good direction that we can be balanced," Fulmer said after the Volunteers rushed for 266 yards and passed for 282. "We're looking forward to the preparation for (Florida)."

Tennessee got 100 yards from tailback Arian Foster and 93 from Lennon Creer in the victory. Running against Florida's defense, though, has proved to be a different story for Foster and the Volunteers. Foster, a senior, has 17 carries for 39 yards in three games against the Gators, who have limited Tennessee to 92 yards on 69 carries over their last three meetings.

The Volunteers haven't had a rushing play longer than six yards against Florida in the last two matchups.

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