The Tennessee Volunteers (4-3, 2-2 in SEC) roll into Bryant-Denny Stadium for a 7 p.m. ET game against the No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide (6-1, 3-1). This game airs on ESPN.
Tennessee lost at home to the Ole Miss Rebels 31-26 as 1.5-point underdogs this past Saturday. Volunteers senior QB Hendon Hooker is tied atop the SEC in passing yards per attempt, second in passer efficiency rating, and third in passing yards and TDs. However, Tennessee is 3-4 against the spread (ATS) and 4-3 Over/Under (O/U) this season with 57th-toughest strength of schedule, according to USA TODAY’s Jeff Sagarin.
Alabama destroyed the Mississippi State Bulldogs last weekend 49-9, easily covering the 17.5-point spread. Crimson Tide freshman QB Bryce Young has the most passing TDs of any Power 5 student-athlete (24) with only three INTs and the fourth-best passer efficiency rating in the nation (180.0). Alabama has played the 24th-most demanding schedule (according to Sagarin) with 4-3 ATS and 4-3 O/U betting records this season.
The Crimson Tide has boat raced the Volunteers in their last five meetings. Alabama has won those contests by an average score of 47.0-13.6 and covered the spread in four of those games.
- Opening Line: Alabama -29
- Current Line: Alabama -25
- Over/Under: 67
Since 2016, Alabama has been 20-16 ATS at home, 28-21-1 ATS vs. SEC foes, and 43-33-1 ATS as a favorite. The Crimson Tide has covered six straight games as 21.5-point favorites or greater, including their last meeting vs. the Volunteers (48-17 on Oct. 24, 2020).
There’s heavy “reverse line movement” in Tennessee’s direction since this line opened. Alabama opened as 29-point favorites at Circa Sports. But, the Crimson Tide is down to 25-point favorites despite getting 85% of the action, according to Pregame.com.
Similar line movement is seen with the total, just not as drastic. Pregame.com reports that a little more than 60% of the action is on the Over, but the total is ticking down from the 67.5-point opener.
Let’s follow the sharp line move and take Tennessee plus four scores. All the stats scream “bet Alabama,” but that’s the case in every Crimson Tide game.
However, Tennessee has plus-predicted points added (PPA), yards per play, and 3rd-down conversion rate differentials. Also, Tennessee’s defense has a higher non-garbage time Havoc rate than Alabama. That says something when you think about how often Alabama plays in garbage time.
Furthermore, I like Tennessee’s chances of making Alabama’s offense one-dimensional. Tennessee’s defense allows the fifth-fewest rushing yards per game, and the Crimson Tide are 65th in rushing yards per game.
The Volunteers have bottled up all but two opponents’ ground games. (Florida and Ole Miss). But, those opponents had running quarterbacks, whereas Young has 28 carries for minus-2 rushing yards this season.
Lastly, I think Tennessee first-year head coach Josh Heupel will have this program trending up. Heupel won 77.8% of his games as head coach of the Central Florida Knights, and Tennessee has been playing good ball lately. I cannot get to the window with Tennessee’s money line, but I’ll grab the points with the Volunteers.
PICK: Tennessee +25 (-110 on BetMGM)
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