Tennessee vs Virginia Odds, Picks & Predictions | How to Bet Week 1 Showdown
Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Tennessee quarterback Joe Milton.
Tennessee vs Virginia Odds
Virginia and Tennessee meet in Nashville to open their respective seasons on Saturday at noon ET.
Virginia is coming off a down season in Tony Elliott's first season as head coach. The Cavs only mustered three wins, and it's not looking like they will improve upon that this season.
Tennessee is coming off one of its best seasons in recent memory after going 11-2, beating Alabama and winning the Orange Bowl over Clemson. There are high hopes in Knoxville this year with Joe Milton III at quarterback in Josh Heupel's fast-paced offense.
Tennessee is the fourth-favorite to win the SEC — as results at Alabama and at home against Georgia will be key — but the Volunteers have to take care of business against Virginia first.
Find a betting pick, preview and prediction for Virginia vs. Tennessee below.
Even with the change at quarterback, Knoxville is buzzing coming into this season.
Former Michigan quarterback Milton, who's been with the program since 2021, is now set to take over for Hendon Hooker. Milton started the final two games of the season and lit Clemson up in the bowl game, throwing for three touchdowns and averaging 9.0 yards per attempt.
Being in Heupel's system for the third year should be a huge benefit for Milton, and there shouldn't be a massive drop-off from Hooker to him.
He has a whole host of weapons back as well. Jalin Hyatt is gone, but the next three pass-catchers are back, and Tennessee added Dont'e Thornton Jr. from Oregon, who was a four-star recruit coming out of high school.
The one-two punch of Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright is back in the Volunteers' backfield after combining for over 1,500 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns. Tennessee was 13th in both Rushing Success Rate and EPA/Rush last season and shouldn't see a drop-off in production.
she said no one in the country can tackle Jaylen Wright. pic.twitter.com/YXTmGkdGsB
— Evan Crowell (@evanvcrowell) August 10, 2023
In 2022, the Tennessee defense massively improved from 2021. The unit ranked 15th in Finishing Drives Allowed, allowed only 5.2 yards per play and was really stout up front. Tennessee was a top-15 unit in EPA/Rush Allowed, Defensive Line Yards and Stuff Rate.
The Volunteers lose their best defensive lineman, but they have a ton of depth across their front seven. They shouldn't see too big of a decline as they dominate an inexperienced Virginia offensive line.
The secondary is the biggest concern for the Volunteers. They were 60th in EPA/Pass Allowed and 77th in PFF Coverage Grade.
The good news is they return four starters in the secondary and added a BYU transfer for some depth. But this unit will have to improve if Tennessee wants to compete with elite teams.
Elliott has his hands full this season. Starting quarterback Brennan Armstrong transferred to NC State as Tony Muskett comes in from Monmouth. Muskett put up some fantastic numbers at the FCS level with an 85.0 PFF Passing Grade, 9.0 yards per attempt and a 74.4% Adjusted Completion Percentage.
Image via PFF
Translating those numbers to the FBS level is a different story, but it does give Virginia more hope at quarterback than its other options.
Virginia also should improve at running back because Elliott went into the transfer portal and grabbed Kobe Pace from Clemson. Pace was one of the main backs in 2021 for the Tigers while averaging a whopping 6.1 yards per carry with 27 missed tackles on just 104 attempts.
However, only 17 starts return on the offensive line, so he may not be as effective as he was at Clemson.
The Virginia defense was pretty strong in 2022, as it allowed 4.8 yards per play, which was among the top 25 in the nation. The Cavaliers were 39th in Finishing Drives Allowed and 35th in EPA/Play Allowed. They return eight starters this season and should be just as stout.
They lose two quality cornerbacks but added Tayvonn Kyle from Iowa State and Malcolm Greene from Clemson. They do lose top linebacker Nick Jackson — who transferred to Iowa — but the defense really shouldn't see a big drop-off.
Tennessee vs Virginia
Betting Picks & Prediction
Tennessee is a massive favorite here in what is essentially a home game in Nashville. The question isn't really whether the Volunteers are going to win — it's whether they're going to cover as a four-touchdown favorite.
I projected Tennessee at -27.6, so I have no interest in the spread, but the total is a tad too high. Yes, Heupel's teams play at the second-fastest pace in college football, but Virginia's strength is its defense, and being a top-25 team in yards per play allowed is no joke.
Muskett will struggle in his first game against an FBS opponent for Virginia. The Cavaliers are weak upfront, so they're not going to run the ball effectively on Tennessee's front seven, which will result in a long day for Elliott's offense.
I have 52.9 points projected for this game, so I like the value on under 56.5 points or better
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