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Staff Picks: Vols vs Arkansas

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It was a tough week last week. Does the staff bounce back? Does the team?

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The Rocky Top Talk staff, like the Vols team, had a week they'd like to forget last Saturday, going just 3-4 straight up and against the spread in Florida's 28-27 comeback win over Tennessee. Closest to the Pin goes to Joel, whose 20-17 Florida prediction was just two points off on the margin and 18 points off on the total, but everyone was beaten by Vegas, whose pick of 25-23 Vols got the winner wrong, but was only three points off on the margin and seven points off on the total.

The staff and the team is hoping for a better week when Arkansas comes to Neyland Stadium to take on the Vols. Can Tennessee get it done? Let's go to the picks:

Incipient (3-1 straight up, 3-1 against the spread): It's really tough to get a read on this game. Tennessee is coming off heartbreak, but. . . so is Arkansas. I can usually count on Tennessee's defense to be great on their own half of the field but terrible in the red zone, but Arkansas is probably the best between-the-20s offense they've faced and the worst red zone offense. I'm not sure how that makes sense, but that's how it's happened. Tennessee has choked away two straight FBS games, but Arkansas' ability to lose close games trumps even the Vols'.

If the fans could try to generate some confidence instead of getting really tight when Tennessee has a lead, that'd be great. Actually, that goes for the coaches too. The players need confidence, and the stadium and the sideline are good places to get it. But in the likely event that both the coaches and fans fail at this task, I guess we'll just have to hope that Tennessee is better and Arkansas doesn't have any confidence either. Tennessee 30 Arkansas 21

Hunter (2-2 straight up, 1-3 against the spread): It's hard to feel good about this game, but the Vols have a deeper, more talented squad, playing at home. The weather could be a factor, but I like Tennessee's young defense against Arkansas. Tennessee 35 Arkansas 32

Chris (4-0 straight up, 4-0 against the spread): There was a stat floating around this week along the lines of teams up by two scores in the fourth quarter were 188-3; Tennessee had two of those losses. While that feels terrible for us, it's also just a bunch of really unlikely things happening in a short time period. If y'all remember the coin toss problems we had for a few years, it's kind of the same thing. So: either there's an ancient Indian burial ground that just sprung up out of nowhere (did we break ground anywhere recently? Can we just stop that construction if we did?) or these things are going to even out just a bit.

Arkansas is reeling, Tennessee's at home, this game might be played in a rainstorm, so if you like running the ball 150 times a game, I've got good news for you. More good news: Tennessee pulls this one out. Tennessee 21 Arkansas 13

Charlie (3-1 straight up, 3-1 against the spread): I think Tennessee is a better football team than Arkansas. Tennessee has been the better football team in every game they have played in so far this season, so obviously that is not a surefire indicator of success. BUT I think against Arkansas, UT can best the Razorbacks despite whatever awful decisions Butch Jones might make because the only coach who has a worse record in close games in the SEC is Bret Bielema. If the Vols can get any semblance of a passing game going, this one is over. Arkansas is last in the SEC in pass defense and we know Jalen Hurd, Alvin Kamara, and Josh Dobbs will be able to run the ball at least somewhat-successfully. UT has the upper hand at almost every position on both sides of the ball, that amounts to Butch Jones and Co. finally getting a meaningful win and Arkansas becoming the most disappointing team in college football. Tennessee 21 Arkansas 17

Nathanael (2-2 straight up, 2-2 against the spread): My pick for this game has nothing to do with coaching. Okay, maybe a little, but that's not why I'm picking who I'm picking. This game is going to be an UGLY contest thanks to the torrential downpour that will drown Knoxville either before or during the game, and I just think that favors Arkansas more. The Razorbacks don't have a stellar secondary, but that shouldn't matter if the conditions are as bad as predicted. The Vols already don't like to throw the ball, and if it's supposed to rain in sheets in the entire night, then the staff will likely be even less prone to throw it. The Vols and Razorbacks both have two of the best rushing attacks in the SEC, but Arkansas seems more equipped to win a nasty, ugly game. Tennessee has already had an issue getting consistent pressure and penetration on defense, and Arkansas' offensive line may be the best line they face all season. This one should be close, and if the Vols are trailing in the 4th quarter, I actually like their chances better to win. But as badly as the Vols need this victory, I don't think they get it. Arkansas 20 Tennessee 14

Joel (3-1 straight up, 3-1 against the spread): Tennessee 23 Arkansas 20

Will (3-1 straight up, 3-1 against the spread): Same logic applies for me: I'm taking Tennessee to win because I think Tennessee is the better team. Arkansas is better than their record, but so are the Vols, and I think Tennessee is much closer to a needed breakthrough. The rain may subdue plans of getting the passing game going and the coaches may genuinely believe what they're already doing is good enough to win, so I don't expect some kind of soul-cleansing blowout. I'll take Tennessee, uncomfortably, because that's what we do right now. Tennessee 27 Arkansas 17

Rocky Top Talk Staff Average (2-2 straight up, 2-2 against the spread): Tennessee 24 Arkansas 20

Vegas (for reference): Tennessee -6.5. Over/under 54.5. Tennessee 31 Arkansas 24