Authorities still are in the process of assessing the damage around Gainesville, Fla. after Hurricane Irma passed through the state, but Florida will host a football game this weekend. The No. 25 Gators hope to give their fans something to take their minds off the destruction of the storm when they host SEC rival and 23rd-ranked Tennessee on Saturday.
“After meeting with the City of Gainesville, campus officials and numerous staffing entities to discuss hosting the game, we are pleased that the Florida-Tennessee football game will take place in Gainesville Saturday as scheduled,” Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin announced. “There has been a tremendous amount of cooperation between local authorities, the Southeastern Conference and the Tennessee athletic program throughout this process, and we are grateful for these strong partnerships.” Volunteers coach Butch Jones is hoping to ride his high-powered offense to a key road win early in conference play. Tennessee scored 42 points in each of its first two games and is coming off an easy 42-7 victory at home over Indiana State last week. The Gators had their home game against Northern Colorado cancelled due to the storm and are off to a rocky start after suspending nine players indefinitely prior to the season-opening loss to Michigan.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Florida -5.5
ABOUT TENNESSEE (2-0): The Volunteers are finding it easy to put up points early in 2017 thanks not only to the offense, but to strong work on special teams and defense. Freshman Ty Chandler returned the opening kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown last weekend, marking the team’s ninth punt- or kickoff-return TD since 2015. Tennessee’s defense allowed a total of 213 passing yards over the first two games and is coming off a stifling effort against the Sycamores in which it collected 11 tackles for loss and held them to 0-for-11 on third down.
ABOUT FLORIDA (0-1): The Gators will attack the Volunteers’ defense with Feleipe Franks at quarterback despite benching the freshman in favor of Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire in the opening loss to Michigan. Franks fumbled twice and was sacked once by the Wolverines while throwing for 75 yards but drew praise from coach Jim McElwain for how he handled a top defense on the road. Whoever takes the snaps under center could use more help from the running game, which gained only 11 yards on 27 carries in the opening loss.
1. Florida freshman WR James Robinson is out indefinitely due to a heart issue.
2. The Volunteers snapped an 11-game losing streak in the series with a 38-28 win at home last season.
3. Gators DBs Duke Dawson and C.J. Henderson each returned an interception for a touchdown in the opener.
PREDICTION: Tennessee 31, Florida 28