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Tennessee Volunteers vs. Alabama Crimson Tide Point Spread - Pick

Tennessee Volunteers (3-3 SU, 1-5 ATS) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (7-0 SU, 3-4 ATS)
College Football Week 8
Date/Time: Saturday, October 21, 2017 at 3:30PM EST
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper,

Point Spread: TENN +34.5/ALA -34.5
Over/Under Total: 34.5

The Tennessee Volunteers come to Tuscaloosa for a week 8 SEC matchup with the top-ranked team in the country in the Alabama Crimson Tide. Tennessee saw their season get more-sideways last Saturday in a 15-9 loss to South Carolina. The Volunteers haven't scored a touchdown in two straight games and are really looking bad, with a lot of tough conference games remaining. Alabama was good last week, lifting their mark to 7-0 with a dominant 41-9 win over Arkansas. They look for more of the same this week at home.

Tennessee is coming off what is really a brutal 3-game home-stand. In the first three weeks of the season, they beat Georgia Tech and Florida needed a Hail Mary late to get the win in a road loss. But in Knoxville, the Volunteers barely beat UMass, before losing 41-0 to Georgia, and then coming up with another dud in a 15-9 loss to South Carolina. The team appears to be steeped in dysfunction, with many calling for head coach Butch Jones' head. They covered one spread this season by half-a-point and their offense has gone completely dead. Even with the worst of Tennessee teams, it's hard to remember a worse 3-game stretch. Last season and even through the first chunk of 2017, they were able to compete with just about anybody, with a ton of big finishes that often went their way. Now, we see a team just searching for something positive and it just hasn't been there for the last month.

The Tennessee offense had two first and goal scenarios in the first half, leading to two field goals. Late in the game with a chance to score the win at home with first and goal, QB Jarrett Guarantano threw three straight incompletions. That's now ten quarters without a TD for the Volunteers. They were moving the ball to open the game, with 100 yards rushing in the first quarter of play. But the run-production ground to a halt. Mistakes were seen on all levels of play. Guarantano had 133 yards through the air. Leading rusher John Kelly was struggling to find holes. The line wasn't opening many, nor were they good at protection with 7 Gamecocks sacks and total dominance from their line when the chips were in the middle. We are seeing no clutch from this side of the ball. One or two weeks of that is one thing, but this latest roll of incompetence is really hard to justify.


In defense of the Tennessee defense, they haven't been getting a lot of support. They have been pretty good against opposing quarterbacks, but that might have a lot to do with how easy it has become to run the ball against this group. They're giving up over 242 yards a game on the ground. But they are yielding only 129 yards per game through the air. With better offensive production, they'd be looking a lot better. They aren't getting turnovers and their pass-rush has been lacking. And based on how porous they have been on the ground, it doesn't paint a rosy picture for what might happen on the road against the Tide.

Alabama is 7-0 and looks to be kicking it into high-gear. They had a closer-than-the-score win against Texas A&M a few weeks ago, but with three covers in their last four games, they seem to be kicking it into second-half of the season form. They crushed Vanderbilt and Ole Miss by a combined score of 125-3. The 41-9 win against Arkansas further illustrates what they're doing with non-elite teams in this conference. The gap between 'Bama and the SEC also-rans seems to be widening.

In a bad case of foretelling for the Tennessee defense, the Tide ran for a combined 308 yards against Arkansas on Saturday. Damien Harris (questionable) is becoming more of a featured back among a rush-attack that features a multi-pronged approach. Harris ran for 125 yards with a pair of touchdowns. QB Jalen Hurts is a big part of the run-game and he ran for a TD on Saturday. The variety of the run-game might be too much for Tennessee to contain. Hurts threw his first pick of the season on Saturday, but he also hit Henry Ruggs, III. for a TD through the air, with WR Calvin Ridley leading all receivers. With the ease in which they run the ball, they haven't really needed to turn it loose much this season aerially, but this is a deep group that can get defenses like Tennessee's in any number of ways.

For a Tennessee offense that is having trouble scoring points against teams like UMass, it's hard to imagine them getting things on the right track this week on the road against this Alabama bunch. They are good against the pass and are adept at securing turnovers. LB Mack Wilson had a pick and they are led by Levi Wallace's three, with Ronnie Harrison, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and others making it a deep group that can make a lot of plays. The middle is tough with Shaun Dion Hamilton, and Rashaan Evans. Up-front, Raekwon Davis was big on Saturday and with Hamilton and Evans, had a combined five sacks. As far as running the ball, teams have been coming up snake-eyes against this 'Bama group and Tennessee faces a daunting challenge on Saturday.

Sometimes, we paint too stark of a picture in our heads and overstate a situation. We see a high-flying Alabama bunch at home and on a roll. Contrast that with what appears to be a nose-diving Tennessee team that can't make anything happen offensively. At the same time, it's hard to overstate the difficulty of this task for the Volunteers. By the same token, Alabama has missed several spreads this season by substantial amounts and this one is a monster at 34.5. The number isn't great, frankly. We were hoping for something in the 31.5-point range, but I still see the Tide getting it done against a Tennessee teams that seems in a shambles.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Alabama Crimson Tide minus 34.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Tennessee vs. Alabama game by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 50% sign-up bonus!

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