Kent State
22
Final
39
(1) Georgia
Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) has yet to throw a TD pass through three games but Mel Kiper Jr. has him rated among the top quarterbacks in the upcoming NFL Draft. (James Gilbert/Getty Images/TNS)

Around the SEC TV schedule: Quarterbacks take center stage in Florida-Tennessee showdown

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Quarterbacks will take center stage in the nationally-televised Tennessee-Florida rivalry matchup on Rocky Top.

Hendon Hooker and Anthony Richardson, recently ranked as two of the Top 10 players at their positions in the upcoming NFL Draft, will hold the direction of their programs in their hands at 3:30 p.m. on CBS at Neyland Stadium.

RELATED: Tennessee looks for GameDay surge, rising threat in East

The Vols are a 10-point favorite to get what would be their first win over the Gators in six years (and only second in the past 18 meetings) because of how well Hooker fits into Coach Josh Heupel’s uptempo offensive schemes.

“It comes down to what your quarterback can highly function with and control the game with,” Heupel told ESPN’s Greg McElroy.

WATCH: Hilarious Eli Manning video and visit with Stetson Bennett on Georgia journey

“So you subtly change (with personnel), but the tempo’s a huge part of how we apply pressure to defenses.”

Florida coach Billy Napier was complimentary of Hooker’s growth from the time he transferred from Virginia Tech to Tennessee, leading the SEC in pass efficiency last season.

“I think they have a great system, Coach Heupel puts him in good position,” said Napier, noting that Hooker has 37 touchdown passes and just 3 interceptions over the past two seasons with the Vols.

“Really good awareness taking care of the ball, (and) he does a good job of extending the play if it doesn’t get muddy. I couldn’t be more complimentary of his growth as a player.”

Hooker could be without leading receiver Cedric Tillman, who left last Saturday’s game against Akron with an ankle sprain.

RELATED: Kirby Smart explains how Stetson Bennett has become an SEC force

Florida could be without middle linebacker Ventrell Miller, who has been listed as day-to-day after suffering a lower-body injury in the Gators’ win over South Florida last Saturday.

That would seem to put more pressure on Richardson and the Florida offense, which would not be optimal according to the Gators’ former head coach.

Dan Mullen believes Richardson is at his best when he’s relaxed, as he appeared in Florida’s 29-26 upset win over Utah.

“There was really no pressure, they weren’t expected to win,” Mullen said. “They were almost the underdog at home and he went out and played. And then the last two weeks you saw a guy that now — as a younger player — is expected to lead the team.”

Richardson casts an imposing figure at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds while possessing tremendous speed and athleticism that has caught Heupel’s attention.

“His combination of athleticism and size is rare at that position can be an issue at times,” Heupel said on Thursday. “He’s got the ability and arm talent to push the ball down the football field, they have playmakers on the outside.

“He has the ability to be a factor in the run game, (and) that could be quarterback designed run game, that could be read game, or that could be him scrambling outside the pocket when his reads aren’t open.”

The pick: Tennessee 27, Florida 17

Arkansas vs. Texas A&M -2.5 in Arlington (7 p.m. ESPN)

The Hogs’ power run and Texas A&M’s stingy defense will be greatly talked about, but this is another game where the quarterbacks could take center stage.

Max Johnson gets his second start for the Aggies, while Arkansas will put much of its offense on the shoulders of capable dual-threat K.J. Jefferson.

Jimbo Fisher praised Johnson’s ability to come up with big plays against Miami last Saturday, and he was just as complimentary of Jefferson in that facet, explaining that timely plays are a key to measuring players.

“We get caught up in wanting to see numbers, but as a coach, I don’t always judge by that,” Fisher said. “Numbers can come and go based on situations and circumstances and based on how the game goes, or how your offense is.

“But it’s those big moments where you have to be the guy and get the ball at the end of the game, like in basketball taking the shot, or in baseball having that last at-bat, in the big moment where momentum has to occur.”

The pick: Texas A&M 27, Arkansas 24

Tulsa at Ole Miss -20 (4 p.m., SEC Network)

It’s the No. 1 passing offense in the nation against the No. 2 scoring defense, but it might surprise some to know which is which.

Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin, whose team is allowing 4.33 points per game, makes no bones about how the Rebels are keeping teams locked down.

“We’ve got the best personnel we’ve had on defense,” Kiffin said. “(But) this (Tulsa offense) is by far the biggest challenge we’ve had.”

Kiffin said more than once he’s hoping his crowd packs the stadium and can be a factor against the Golden Hurricanes.

The pick: Ole Miss 50, Tulsa 27

Kent State at Georgia -46 (Noon, SEC+ ESPN+ Stream)

Kirby Smart has paid Kent State all due respect, talking about how the Golden Flashes play a defense that takes away big plays and led Oklahoma throughout most of the first half before falling 33-3.

RELATED: Georgia a monster favorite over Golden Flashes

The Bulldogs, however, are stacked with talent to the point that even when the reserves enter points will be scored.

The Pick: Georgia 52, Kent State 3

Missouri at Auburn -7 (Noon, ESPN)

Auburn coach Bryan Harsin hired Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz at Arkansas State in 2013 and brought him with him to Boise State in 2014.

That’s where the “feel-good” starts and stops, as the two Tigers’ coaches oversee struggling programs both in desperate need of a win.

The Pick: Auburn 24, Missouri 16

Bowling Green at Mississippi State -30 (Noon, ESPN)

The Maroon Bulldogs saw a strong start to the season get derailed in the second half of their loss to LSU last Saturday night.

Bowling Green is coming off a surprising 34-31 upset win that proved to be a happy Homecoming Game.

The pick: Mississippi State 47, Bowling Green 14

Other SEC Team’s Games

Vanderbilt at Alabama -40.5 (7:30 p.m., SEC Network)

The pick: Alabama 56, Vanderbilt 7

Northern Illinois at Kentucky -25.5 (7 p.m. ESPN2)

The pick: Kentucky 34, Northern Illinois 10

New Mexico at LSU -30 (7:30 p.m., SEC+ ESPN+)

The pick: LSU 48, New Mexico 17

Charlotte at South Carolina -23 (7:30 p.m. ESPNU)

The pick: South Carolina 52, Charlotte 17

9-2 straight-up last week, 6-5 vs. spread

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