Gators return to AP Top 25 after Tennessee upset

Florida coach Billy Napier’s Gators returned to the Associated Top 25 after a 29-16 upset of No. 11 Tennessee.

UF entered the poll at No. 25, the program’s first appearance since dropping out last September following a 38-33 loss at Tennessee while ranked No. 20.

No. 4 FSU, No. 20 Miami and Florida are all ranked for the first time since Sept. 17, 2017.

The Gators (2-1, 1-0 SEC) quickly erased a 7-0 deficit Saturday night in the sold-out Swamp, scoring on four straight possessions.

Quarterback Graham Mertz, tailback Trevor Etienne and an inspired defensive effort led the way.

Mertz was 17 of 20 passing as the Gators staked a 26-7 halftime lead and finished 19 of 24 for 166 yards and an 18-yard touchdown to Montrell Johnson Jr. while taking only one sack against against the SEC’s leader entering the game with 11.

Etienne’s 62-yard touchdown run for UF’s first score highlighted a career-high 172 yards for the Gators’ sophomore.

Meanwhile, the Gators’ defense stopped Tennessee three times on fourth down and held in check one of the nation’s top offenses. A year after it ranked 97th nationally in total defense among 131 teams, Florida is 10th under first-year coordinator Austin Armstrong.

Edgar Thompson can be reached at