In one of the more interesting matchups of the weekend, the Virginia Tech Hokies travel to face the #17 Tennessee Volunteers in non-conference action Saturday night. More interesting than the ACC/SEC matchup is the location. Kickoff from Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee is set for 8:00 pm ET with national TV coverage via ABC. The current Vegas odds have Tennessee favored by 11.5 points with the over/under set at 54 points in this contest.
Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee Vegas Odds Preview
Both teams emerged from the opening week of the schedule with ugly victories but they count in the standings. Virginia Tech woke up in the second half to put away FCS program Liberty 36-13 Saturday. Tennessee had a tougher battle, having to rally to win 20-13 in overtime at home to Appalachian State Thursday. That knocked the Volunteers out of the top 10 of the AP poll. This is the ninth all-time meeting between the schools. Tennessee has a 5-3 advantage though Virginia Tech took the last meeting, 37-14, back in 2009.
Free Vegas Spread Pick & Prediction: Virginia Tech +11.5
For the first time since 1986, Virginia Tech played a game without Frank Beamer as their head coach. The man who won 238 games on the sideline in Blacksburg, including 11 bowl games, retired last season. The Hokies won in Justin Fuente’s debut as head coach and the Hokie faithful can only hope to have as successful a run. It wasn’t a perfect debut: the Hokies trailed 13-10 late in the second quarter. Virginia Tech also turned the ball over four times, including one that was returned for a score. Still, the Hokies got things done on defense: Virginia Tech had a 458-160 edge in total yards, a 24-11 edge in first downs and broke even in the turnover battle thanks to four takeaways.
Jerod Evans was solid in his start at quarterback, completing 20 of 32 balls for 221 yards and four scores. He led the Hokies with 46 yards on the ground. Brenden Motley, last season’s starter before sustaining injuries, hit 5 of 9 for 31 yards in his action. Travon McMillian also couldn’t get untracked in the run game. He finished with 13 carries for 39 yards. Virginia Tech ran the ball 48 times in the game, picking up a total of 206 yards. It was the usual suspects doing the damage in the passing game: Isaiah Ford led the way with 11 catches totaling 117 yards and a score. Cam Phillips (five catches, 53 yards, TD) and Bucky Hodges (three grabs, 42 yards, two TD) stepped up as well.
Tennessee trailed 13-3 at the half and seemed poised to shoot itself in the foot. The team that blew a prime opportunity to beat Oklahoma early last season looked ready to choke away another prime opportunity. Expectations were high in Knoxville coming into the year. It’s safe to say Butch Jones was unsatisfied by his team’s performance in the opener. Tennessee finished with only 319 yards of offense in the game, 67 of which came on one play. The Volunteers turned the ball over twice and also scored the eventual winning touchdown in overtime by falling on a fumble in the end zone. Style points were not the name of the game here. It was survival, plain and simple. If Michael Rubino hadn’t missed an extra point in the second quarter, Tennessee might not have even had the chance for that fortunate bounce.
Joshua Dobbs was inconsistent at best. He hit 16 of 29 throws for 192 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The two-headed run game was mainly one guy: Jalen Hurd finished with 28 carries for 110 yards and the winning touchdown. Alvin Kamara had only six carries for 21 yards. All told, Tennessee ran the ball 43 times for 127 yards. Three yards and a cloud of dust doesn’t win in the SEC. Preston Williams caught a team high five passes for 45 yards for the Volunteers. Ethan Wolf contributed four catches for 40 yards while Kamara had three catches out of the backfield. Josh Malone had only two catches but they went for 81 yards and a score. His 67 yard touchdown catch tied the game in the fourth quarter.
Tennessee has high aspirations that this is their year. The problem is, you have to win the games on the schedule. One can’t sleepwalk through a half or more in the SEC and expect to escape with a victory. There are too many tough teams in the conference to deal with. Jones and his squad received a wake-up call last week. Until the Volunteers prove they learned from it, you can’t expect to lay double digits and feel comfortable. Take the points and the Hokies. To catch up on the rest of the week’s college football picks, check here!
Virginia Tech is 4-1 ATS in their last five after giving up less than 100 yards rushing and 6-2 ATS in their last eight after allowing less than 275 yards. Tennessee is 1-4 ATS in their last five vs. the ACC.