Tennessee vs. Bowling Green Odds, Picks, Predictions: Betting Value Lies With Over/Under
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Tennessee vs. Bowling Green Odds
We have been gifted with 28 college football games on Thursday's slate. I'm not sure what we've done to deserve that, but I won't question it. In one of the marquee matchups, new Tennessee coach Josh Heupel looks to make a big statement against Mid-American Conference opponent Bowling Green.
Since the Volunteers ended last season 3-7, they have fired their head coach, hired a new athletic director and been placed under NCAA investigation. Tennessee fans are hungry for any kind of positive news around their football program. And Heupel might have the opportunity to give them that against the Falcons in their opener.
The best news for Bowling Green is I don't see any way it can get worse after last year. The Falcons lost by an average of 45 points when they only played MAC teams. Collin Wilson's power rankings list them 125th our of 130 teams.
This game is going to be far from "must-see" TV, but there's a betting edge to be had. That said, hold your nose and shield your eyes for this matchup of visually awful color schemes.
Heupel begins his first season at Tennessee after three successful years at Central Florida, where his 28-8 record ranked him ninth among FBS head coaches the last three years. His units ranked second in FBS total offense the past two seasons, including a Power 5-best 568.1 yards per game last season.
To kickoff his return to the Southeastern Conference (he was previously offensive coordinator at Missouri from 2016-2017, where he also led the SEC in offense both years), Huepel will lead the Volunteers into their first Thursday season opener on a Thursday since 2015.
Tennessee is 2-0 in season openers on Thursdays and this will be their first game against a MAC opponent since the 2016 campaign.
This will be the first real, up-close look at Heupel’s system for Vols fans. We know it will be a fast-paced style that will compete for No. 1 in the nation in seconds per play. What we don’t know who’s going to be on the field for those plays.
Transfers Hendon Hooker (Virginia Tech) and Joe Milton (Michigan), along with returning backup Harrison Bailey make up the quarterback room. Hooker threw for almost 3,000 yards with the Hokies and added more than 1,000 yards on the ground. However, Milton is the favorite to be the starter.
Milton, who joined the team after spring practice, was highly recruited out of high school, including receiving an offer from Heupel at UCF. In three years at Michigan, Milton was 86 for 152 passing for 1,194 yards, five touchdowns and six interceptions.
At wide receiver, Tennessee returns standouts Velus Jones Jr. and Jalin Hyatt. In addition, they have Mississippi State transfer Javonta Payton. In 2020, Payton began the season with six catches for 122 yards against LSU before injuries and Mississippi State's struggles on offense limited his production.
Running Back Jabari Small will be at the top of the depth chart after he did what he could in 2020, seeing limited snaps behind Ty Chandler and Eric Gray, who have both since transferred.
Tiyon Evans comes in as the top-ranked, junior-college running back. If he can transfer his production to the SEC, this running back group could quickly become a strength for the Tennessee offense.
There's a lot to be excited about on the Tennessee offense, but I can't say the same for the defense. Ranking 76th nationally in yards per play (5.83) and 69th in scoring allowed (30.1 points per game) last year, the Volunteers will try replace their top tackler, top two sack leaders and best cornerback.
Also gone are depth pieces like defensive linemen Emmit Gooden and John Mincey, as well as promising young defensive back Key Lawrence. New defensive coordinator Tim Banks brings a new scheme from a complicated 3-4 defense to a hybrid 4-3, 4-2-5 look.
With so much change and limited depth, it’s going to be a struggle for Tennessee to hold opponents at bay at times this season.
The Falcons come into this season with an offensive TARP of 71% and 72% defensively, which is pretty impressive considering they only return three starters on the entire offense and have five freshman defensive starters. Only 16 current players have started a game for Bowling Green.
It has been a tough road for Scot Loeffler as he begins his third year as head coach. The Falcons are 3-14 in his first two years, along with ranking 126th our of 127 on scoring offense and defense last year. They also posted the worst turnover margin in the nation.
The Falcons are one of the youngest teams in college football, with a roster that includes 71% of its players who graduated high school in 2020 or 2021.
One of the few returning members of this offense is senior quarterback Matt McDonald, who followed Loeffler when he came from Boston College. He started all five games in 2020, while playing through injury.
Some weeks McDonald was unable to practice before the games due to the injury and it showed as he finished last in the FBS in pass efficiency, completing just 44 percent of his passes. He threw for one touchdown and six interceptions.
McDonald missed spring camp due to surgery, but is now healthy and ready for the season. At running back, Bowling Green must find replacements for the departed former all-MAC selection Andrew Clair, who left for Northwestern in the offseason and graduate Bryson Denley.
Terion Stewart was key contributor as a freshman a season ago. He led the Falcons with 295 yards and four touchdowns on an 8.0 yards per carry average.
The Falcons defense gave up an average of 45 points in five games last year when they were the nation's worst run defense. And while it's hard to say Bowling Green could do worse, I wouldn't say it's going to be better.
Three of the Falcons' top four tacklers are transferring out, along with defensive end Roland Walder, who was the team's best playmaker. An important defensive piece — Darren Anders at middle linebacker — is still on the roster and their secondary is bringing three experienced starters back.
However, the lack of a pass rusher could lead to the Volunteers' offense having a field day to open the season.
Tennessee vs. Bowling Green Matchup Analysis
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Bowling Green Offense vs. Tennessee Defense
Tennessee Offense vs. Bowling Green Defense
Pace of Play / Other
These teams come into this game with one thing in common and that's very questionable defenses. This game could be a blowout where Tennessee easily covers the spread or Bowling Green might be able to overcome the Tennessee defense, which still has a lot to figure out, and put some points on the board.
I don't have enough faith in either of these teams even with a 36-point spread. However, what I do know is regardless of how this game plays out is Heupel's team will not take its foot off of the gas regardless of the score.
Heupel got this job because of the offensive history of his teams, and there might not be a better foe than Bowling Green to show the fans a new offense.
Tennessee vs. Bowling Green Betting Pick
I'm betting over 60.5 (-115) and would play it up to 62.5 (-115) as my top pick.