College Football
Preview
Florida at Tennessee
When: 3:30 PM ET, Saturday, December 5, 2020
Where: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

No. 6 Florida and Tennessee are set to square off for the 50th time in a series usually simply called the "Third Saturday in September," and the Southeastern Conference rivals are trending in opposite directions.

On Saturday afternoon at legendary Neyland Stadium, the visiting Gators (7-1, 7-1 SEC) -- winners of five straight since losing to Texas A&M -- can clinch the SEC East with a victory against the Volunteers or a Georgia loss against winless Vanderbilt.

A division title would be the Gators' first since 2016, which would send them to Atlanta on Dec. 19 for the SEC Championship Game, likely against undefeated and top-ranked Alabama.

Meanwhile, the Volunteers (2-5, 2-5 SEC) -- who have dropped 14 of their last 15 contests against Florida -- are mired in the division's basement below three-win Kentucky but ahead of South Carolina (2-7, 2-7 SEC) and Vanderbilt (0-8, 0-8 SEC).

That could spell a big advantage for the Gators, who hold a 29-20 edge in the rivalry.

The news for coach Dan Mullen's team became even better when Kyle Pitts returned and made major contributions in Saturday's 34-10 home win over Kentucky.

Kyle Trask's go-to target during the quarterback's 34-touchdown campaign so far, Pitts responded by hauling in three touchdown passes from Trask in a game Florida trailed 10-7 late in the first half.

Pitts caught five passes for a game-high 99 yards and increased his touchdown total to 11 on 29 receptions (513 yards, 17.7 yards per catch) after missing previous games against Vanderbilt and Arkansas.

"I was real jittery," said Pitts, the leading candidate for the Mackey Award as the game's top tight end. "Because, not playing for two weeks, my chest kind of got hot and my heart beat fast so ... I was a little nervous at first."

Things aren't so good on Rocky Top, where a nasty, five-game losing streak has criticism reaching a peak as high as the nearby Smoky Mountains.

Tennessee's biggest hurdle continues to be at quarterback, where Jarrett Guarantano (103-for-166 passing, 1,112 yards, 6 TDs, 4 INTs) has been wildly inconsistent. The team also has been outscored 108-14 in the second halves of the last five games.

Against Auburn, Guarantano led the Vols to a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter, but the senior signal-caller was largely ineffective the rest of the way in the 30-17 loss. He made matters worse when he tossed a 100-yard pick-six to the Tigers' Smoke Monday.

Highly regarded freshman Harrison Bailey replaced Guarantano and went 7-for-10 passing for 86 yards and led the Vols to their final touchdown.

Coach Jeremy Pruitt said Monday that two players are COVID-19 positive from the Nov. 17 game in Auburn, and contact tracing has put up to 16 players in quarantine -- including one quarterback that remained unnamed by the third-year coach.

That means either Guarantano, Bailey, J.T. Shrout or Brian Maurer will likely be unavailable Saturday.

With Tennessee's season spinning toward its end, the time could be right for Bailey, a four-star prospect from Marietta, Ga., to make his first career start in place of the senior Guarantano.

In fact, starting wide receiver Josh Palmer may have provided a hint in Tuesday's media session.

"He's calm and cool and collected," Palmer said of the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Bailey. "I feel like we have a really good game plan for him."

--Field Level Media

Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W‑L Strk PF PA Home Away Grass Turf Conf
Florida 7-1 W5 43.4 25.9 4-0 3-1 6-1 0-0 7-1
Tennessee 2-5 L5 20.1 31.3 1-2 1-3 2-4 0-0 2-5
Last Meeting
Florida Tennessee
Date Away Home Tot Rus Pas Tot Rus Pas
9/21/19 TENN 3 FLA 34 441 128 313 239 88 151
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Florida K. Trask 71.4 293 2 2
Tennessee J. Guarantano 58.8 107 0 2
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Florida L. Perine 14 62 4.4 1
Tennessee T. Chandler 10 34 3.4 0
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Florida F. Swain 3 67 22.3 1
Tennessee J. Jennings 7 73 10.4 0
Touchdowns Player TD
Florida L. Perine 1
Tennessee J. Abercrombie 0
Season
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Florida K. Trask 71.4 2810 34 3
Tennessee J. Guarantano 62.0 1112 6 4
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Florida D. Pierce 80 412 5.2 3
Tennessee E. Gray 132 651 4.9 4
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Florida K. Toney 45 541 12.0 7
Tennessee J. Palmer 22 331 15.0 4
Touchdowns Player TD
Florida K. Pitts 11
Tennessee E. Gray 5
Quickchart Matchup
Florida Florida Off vs  Tennessee Tennessee Def
Florida 509.2 yards
Tennessee 404.7 yards
Florida 4.3 yards/rush
Tennessee 3.9 yards/rush
Florida 10.2 yards/attempt
Tennessee 8.8 yards/attempt
Tennessee Tennessee Off vs  Florida Florida Def
Tennessee 339.3 yards
Florida 386.9 yards
Tennessee 3.9 yards/rush
Florida 4.1 yards/rush
Tennessee 6.6 yards/attempt
Florida 7.6 yards/attempt