Florida will play in the SEC Championship Game for the first time since 2016.
It wasn’t Florida’s prettiest victory of the season, but the No. 6 Gators rolled through Tennessee on Saturday anyway, improving to 8-1 with a 31-19 road win over the Volunteers to clinch the SEC East for the first time since 2016. The win leaves a home game with LSU next week as the final roadblock standing between Florida and an SEC Championship Game showdown with No. 1 Alabama on Dec. 19 that will determine both teams’ College Football Playoff fate.
Quarterback Kyle Trask completed 35 of 49 passes for 433 yards and four touchdowns in yet another prolific performance for the Heisman Trophy favorite. The aerial assault was a necessity because Florida mustered just 21 yards rushing in the game. Trask’s outing brought his season total to 38 passing touchdowns, just one shy of Danny Wuerffel’s school record of 39. That Trask has done it in just nine games — all against SEC competition — is even more impressive.
Florida took a 24-7 lead on a five-play, 75-yard scoring drive to begin the third quarter, and Tennessee did not get back within two possessions until a garbage time score with 27 seconds left. But the Gators did go three-and-out on consecutive possessions for the first time this season in the third quarter as their offense sputtered a bit. In regards to the outcome, those brief struggles were of little concern against a struggling Tennessee team that gave true freshman quarterback Harrison Bailey his first career start.
Bailey showed flashes of promise, especially on a 96-yard scoring drive in the first half, and he finished 14 of 21 for 111 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. But the Vols generated only 94 yards on the ground and gave up six sacks while dropping their sixth straight game and falling to 2-6 on the season.