After a 100% record against the spread in the Vols' opener against Bowling Green, the Rocky Top Talk staff was just 3-4 last week against Oklahoma, although the four who lost can comfort themselves with being on the wrong side of one of the most frustrating things about picking against the spread: having an underdog that loses in OT. Because at the end of regulation, you're right, and after OT, you aren't. Closest to the Pin goes to Chris, whose prediction of a 31-23 Sooners victory was just one point off the final score of 31-24. For the second week in a row, the writeups by-and-large missed the mark, with most of the staff projecting much more offense than we saw but with the 21 total overtime points putting their projections closer to the total. One exception was Incipient, whose 21-16 Oklahoma prediction was about ten points too low, but whose writeup was frustratingly on point:
Maybe this is battered fan syndrome, but I just can't get the last two times Butch Jones went into a copiously hyped, potentially season defining home game against a similarly talented team out of my head. Both games were sloppy, ugly affairs that gave us two of Tennessee's worst offensive performances since 2011. The pieces are all in place for this game to be different, but I can't bring myself to predict good things in this situation until I see it happen. Tennessee's defense should create some short fields, but an offense predicated on speed will struggle in power situations and settle for too many field goals. Oklahoma won't move the ball consistently, but when they do, they'll score touchdowns, and that will be enough.
Sigh. This week we're on to the Catamounts of Western Carolina, and our staff is once again trying their hand at predicting the final scores as the Vols try to bounce back from a gut-wrenching defeat.
Incipient (2-0 straight up, 2-0 against the spread): Last year after a crushing disappointment, Jones' Vols beat FCS Chattanooga 45-10. That Chattanooga team beat Western Carolina 51-0. With the Gators coming up next week, Butch is not going to keep his foot on the gas long enough to let that difference in quality show up on the scoreboard, but Tennessee should have no problems with the Catamounts. Get the offense going, then let the backups finish it out. Maybe give Medley a couple field goal tries late to boost his confidence. Tennessee 48 Western Carolina 10.
Hunter (1-1 straight up, 1-1 against the spread): My Tennessee spider-sense is being thrown off right now, so I'm taking a page from George Costanza and going against my natural instinct. Vols win a shootout with Quinten Dormady at the controls for most of the game and Jancek trying new combinations in the secondary. Tennessee 56 Tasty Cupcake 27.
Chris (2-0 straight up, 2-0 against the spread): I'm not worried about a rebound; Tennessee's done well lately when they can safely out-talent their opponent. I don't think they'll look to run the score up on the Catamounts, but the difference between pounding Chattanooga last year and this year is that second-string depth isn't a hope-and-pray affair. The Vols will let off the gas early, but it may not matter. Tennessee 52 Western Carolina 6.
Charlie (1-1 straight up, 1-1 against the spread): I'll be honest, I haven't researched Western Carolina at all. All I know is that they lost The Citadel last week and I didn't even know the The Citadel had a football team. Tennessee will smash them and there will be lots of reps for 2nd string players. Tennessee 63 Western Carolina 10.
Nathanael (1-1 straight up, 1-1 against the spread): Fans will want to see the Vols pour it on against Western Carolina, and the offense should be able to deliver and will be able to name whatever score they want in this game. Western Carolina is, after all, a team that lost to The Citadel last weekend. The Catamounts likely have an even worse defense than Bowling Green, but they don't have the offense to put a scare into Tennessee like the Falcons. That likely means plenty of backups will get action early into the 2nd half of this game, and the Vols will be focusing on game planning for Florida before this game is even over. Tennessee 51 Western Carolina 3.
Joel (1-1 straight up, 1-1 against the spread): From yesterday. Tennessee 56 Western Carolina 17.
Will (2-0 straight up, 2-0 against the spread): Though they did put a scare in South Florida last season, Western Carolina is two years removed from a 2-10 season and lost 51-0 to Chattanooga last fall. I don't know if Butch Jones necessarily wants to throw up 50 or 60 points in this game, but I don't know if the up-tempo Vols will be able to help themselves. Stay healthy, get Dobbs and his receivers in rhythm, and let's get back to a game that can make a difference in the positive. Tennessee 55 Western Carolina 13.
Rocky Top Talk Staff Average (1-1 straight up, 1-1 against the spread): Tennessee 54 Western Carolina 12.
Vegas (for reference): Tennessee -33. Over/under 61. Tennessee 47 Western Carolina 14.