After a nervous 60 minutes of game time, it was a great week for Vols fans after a thrilling 34-31 victory in Athens over the Georgia Bulldogs. We haven't heard a single gripe from the six staff members who lost their pick of Tennessee -3.5 when the Vols didn't come out to kick a meaningless extra point after time had expired. Closest to the Pin. . . well, Volundore's prediction of 34-27 pinned Tennessee's score and was just four points off on Georgia's, finishing four points off on both the margin and the total. On the other hand, only Incipient correctly predicted the Tennessee win/Georgia cover combination. His 26-24 prediction was just one point off the final margin and roughly 19 seconds off on the total. This week, the Vols travel to College Station, where they will be featured on College GameDay for the third time this season and will be underdogs for the first time. How confident is our staff against the Aggies? To the picks!
Incipient (4-1 straight up, 3-2 against the spread): Unless Tennessee's star-studded defensive line can take over the game in a way they didn't against Georgia or in the first half against Florida, Texas A&M will be able to pick on backups at linebacker and DB, and the Vols' beleaguered back seven is going to put Tennessee in a hole again. On the plus side, Tennessee's offense has proven that they can make the plays to keep the Vols in the game, so we shouldn't expect a runaway victory from the Aggies. But based on what we've seen so far, A&M is the better team, and Tennessee won't be able to take over the second half like they did against lesser opponents. UT will keep it close, but this time, they won't finish the job. Texas A&M 38 Tennessee 34
Will (5-0 straight up, 3-2 against the spread): I agree with Justin in the sense that this match-up feels like Arkansas last year: if A&M's offensive weapons are healthy, our non-Sutton/JRM/Kirkland defense is an especially bad match-up for us. That doesn't mean the Vols can't win though - we certainly had our chances against the Hogs and I would expect we have our chances again here, if Tennessee can avoid the slow start. The Vols will need their defensive line to cause more problems than Texas A&M's, and to be the team that does a better job turning those problems into points. And I think there's a chance we've come to a place where we're actually underestimating Josh Dobbs, so caught up in the midst of all the great insanity surrounding the team as a whole a stellar individual performance as these games go on is getting overlooked. Tennessee might need the kind of game from Dobbs that no one could overlook to win. But I'll keep riding with this team at 5-0. Tennessee 27 Texas A&M 24
Joel (5-0 straight up, 2-3 against the spread): Tennessee 35 Texas A&M 31
Chris (3-2 straight up, 2-3 against the spread): Tennessee when they get down 3+ scores. Con: y'know, trailing by 15. I don't know if TAMU is going to repeat the Honorary Mike Sherman Only Play The First Half (of the season) routine, but if they do, this is a good week for it. This will be Tennessee's toughest game to date, provided you think A&M is better than Florida or Georgia. Florida had the Vols on the ropes and Georgia nearly knocked the Vols out; there is literally no smaller margin for end-of-game error than last week.
Hunter (5-0 straight up, 1-4 against the spread): It's a good thing these picks against the spread are for entertainment purposes only-- otherwise, Vegas would be taking me to the cleaners with the able assistance of Josh Dobbs and Derek Barnett. The 2016 Vols haven't looked anything like the dominant defense/efficient offense team the offseason led us to expect, and for at least this week, I'm taking that as a good thing. Last year's Tennessee team folded up like a tent against Arkansas after the Razorbacks punched them in the mouth-- BERT's physicality and aggression were too much for a tired, sore team in the midst of a losing streak. This year's Vols are a stronger, more resilient group, and I'm not convinced that the Aggies have dealt with much adversity this year, outside of week one's almost-collapse against UCLA. What happens if Trevor Knight has to leave the game because of injury? What happens if the Vols are the fast starting team this week? I'm done questioning Josh Dobbs-- let's put the onus on Kevin Sumlin's "Ain't Played Nobody" crew. Tennessee 35 Texas A&M 34
Volundore (4-1 straight up, 2-3 against the spread): For the first time this season, I am truly pessimistic about a game (I know I picked a loss to Florida, but that was 11 years of baggage talking rather than thinking they were necessarily better than UT). The Vols are now 5/5 in starting games sleepily; the defense is still banged up; and A&M is positioned to put them in a hole with explosive offense and use a terrifying edge rush to prevent a comeback. That's already a rough confluence of factors, plus there's the combined hangover of the cathartic 2nd half against Florida and the insane emotional release of last week's ending. I think it's more likely that Tennessee gets blasted than wins the game. Texas A&M 41 Tennessee 24
Justin (5-0 straight up, 1-4 against the spread): Each week the Vols have invented creative ways to edge closer to defeat before ultimately winning the game. Not so this week. The Aggies boast an explosive offense, a vastly improved defense, and home field advantage inside Kyle Field (aka "The House Johnny Football Renovated"). Regardless of how good A & M actually is, this game just has that "bad matchup" feel a la the Arkansas game last year. The streak ends this week, but everyone cheer up: We all wanted to go 2-2 through the killer four-game stretch. Mission (already) accomplished. Texas A&M 31 Tennessee 27
Trey (5-0 straight up, 2-3 against the spread): A string of epic, emotionally exhausting finishes after slow starts, a defense crippled by injuries, and an explosive opposing offense built to exploit linebackers with edge speed, quarterback mobility and quick passing add up to Tennessee's first loss of BAHAHAHA J/K HAVE YOU WATCHED THIS TEAM WE LITERALLY CANT LOSE WE'RE INVINCIBLE #TEAMOFDESTINY. Last minute touchdown scored by the backup long-snapper gives us Tennessee 32 Texas A&M 28
Rocky Top Talk Staff Average (5-0 straight up, 2-3 against the spread): Texas A&M 33 Tennessee 30
Vegas: Texas A&M -7. Over/under 57. Texas A&M 32 Tennessee 25