The last time No. 6 Florida and Tennessee met in December was way back in 2001, when the Volunteers defeated the Gators in a 34-32 thriller that decided the winner of the SEC East. Back then, the rivalry was almost always a highly-contested affair with major conference and national title implications almost every season. Now, as the Vols and Gators prepare for another December showdown, there are still national and conference title implications at stake, but only for Florida.
This once-great annual showdown has lost its luster amid Tennessee's prolonged descent into mediocrity. Florida has won 14 of the last 15 in the series, and the Gators have their sights set on the SEC Championship Game and a potential College Football Playoff berth. Tennessee was once a rival, but this season it appears the Vols are just another opponent on the Gators' march to a postseason of opportunity.
An upset victory over the Gators would help salvage third-year coach Jeremy Pruitt's woebegone season. But beating Florida will require a level of defensive mastery that the Volunteers have yet to show during a five-game losing streak that has called the program's direction under Pruitt into question.
Florida: Gators quarterback Kyle Trask and tight end Kyle Pitts continued their dominance of the SEC last week when Pitts returned after missing two games and caught three touchdown passes in a 34-10 win over Kentucky. If not for the time he's missed, Pitts would likely be a Heisman Trophy candidate, but his quarterback is. He's thrown for 2,810 yards, 34 touchdowns and just three interceptions while completing 71.4% of his passes this season. It's all building toward a potential Florida-Alabama showdown in the SEC Championship Game against another Heisman contender in Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. But Trask can continue to build his case before then by leading the Gators to a comfortable win with another prolific passing effort on Saturday.
Tennessee: Pruitt dismissed Kivon Bennett, Tennessee's leader in tackles for loss and sacks, on Tuesday after he was arrested on gun and drug charges. It was just the latest in a series of frustrating twists for a season that began with promise. The Volunteers began the year 2-0, extending their winning streak to eight games overall. But the program's momentum fell off a cliff after the Volunteers rose to No. 14 and took a lead into halftime at Georgia. Tennessee ended up losing that game 44-21 and has dropped five straight games overall. Redshirt senior quarterback Jarrett Guarantano has been one of the primary sources of frustration for the fan base because of his inaccuracy and costly turnovers. Three backups have also seen action at the position this season, so it will be interesting to see how Pruitt handles his quarterbacks against the Gators.
Date: Saturday, Dec. 5 | Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: Neyland Stadium -- Knoxville, Tennessee
TV: CBS | Live stream: CBSSports.com, CBS Sports App (Free)
OTT: CBS Sports App (Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast)
Florida at Tennessee prediction, picks
Tennessee's ability to run the ball suggests it may be able to generate some measure of offense against a Florida defense that is not necessarily elite. But there's little else to indicate the Volunteers will keep it competitive. Florida's offense is simply too explosive and should provide enough cover for its defense to relinquish a couple of touchdowns without the Volunteers covering this spread. Pick: Florida (-17.5)
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