Friday 12/31/2015 4:00 PM
Tennessee Volunteers -9 -105
Vs Northwestern Wildcats +9 -105
Over 47.5 -105
Under 47.5 -105
Betting odds provided by 5Dimes
The fact that the 8-4 Volunteers are favored over the 10-2 Wildcats by more than a touchdown is a bit surprising. Yes, Tennessee gets the statistical advantages, due to Northwestern being blown out by Michigan and Iowa, as well as the fact that the Wildcats aren’t explosive offensively and don’t really blow teams out. Tennessee, on the other hand, put up 50 or more points for times this season, but aren’t likely to sniff that number against a Northwestern defense that is holding teams to less than 17 points a game and allowed more than 200 rushing yards just one time all season and held four teams to season lows offensively.
Both teams like to run the ball and the numbers say that Tennessee is slightly better at it, gaining 30 more yards per game and having a better average per carry, while Northwestern is more in the mold of an old-time Big Ten team in that they’re content to hammer the ball at you and gain three or four yards a pop.
Both teams have big-time running backs in Jalen Hurd and Justin Jackson and quarterback who can run the ball, although Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs is a bit better at it and more explosive. Dobbs is also a better passes than Clayton Thorson, which is something he doesn’t hear that often, but Thorson isn’t a quarterback you want to ask to lead your team on a game-winning drive.
Dobbs isn’t a quarterback you really want trying to lead your team from behind either, especially when facing the No. 3 team in defensive pass efficiency. The Vols are at their best when they can run and pass, although neither is going to be all that easy.
The Volunteers are more explosive on special teams, although the Wildcats are slightly better at stopping returns, which will be key. Northwestern allows 2.1 yards per punt return, while Tennessee’s Cameron Sutton led the nation in punt returns with 467 yards and an 18.7-yard average and two touchdowns. The Wildcats have a net punting average of 37.4 yards and figure to have to kick a few times due to their lackluster offense.
The key for the Wildcats is to keep the game close in the beginning, as they can’t afford to get big early, as they did in their two losses this season. Northwestern will try to play close to the vest and let their defense do their job and hopefully give the offense decent field position.
Tennessee’s four losses were all by seven points or less and included games with Alabama and Oklahoma, so they have talent, but asking them to win by more than a touchdown against a solid defense might be asking a bit much. The Wildcats aren’t likely to score a lot of points, but as long as the defense plays the way its capable of, they shouldn’t have to in order to cover the spread.
The Pick: Northwestern Wildcats +9 - Get it at 5Dimes
Guest Pick by: Allen Moody - About.com Sports Gambling Expert