A +4 turnover margin and a few big plays (mostly on the ground) from Josh Dobbs were enough for the Vols to coast to a 45-24 win over Virginia Tech last week in Bristol, despite a nervy first quarter. It was also enough to return six of our pickers to .500 against the spread. Closest to the Pin goes to Trey, whose 34-13 prediction hit the margin dead on and was 22 off on the total. However, he was bested in the comments by yrekacavol, whose 49-17 pick was 11 off the margin but only three off the total. This week, we turn our attention to the MAC, whose Ohio Bobcats are making the trek to Knoxville in the last game before Florida. Will the Vols be able to put away their second mid-major of the year, or will App State Light give Tennessee the same trouble that the genuine article did in week one? To the picks!
Incipient (2-0 straight up, 1-1 against the spread): Sandwiched between a game that had been hyped for three years and a game with eleven years of weight bearing down on it is a home contest with Ohio University. It'd be tough for any team to fully focus in this situation, and unfortunately for the Vols, Ohio isn't in the North Texas and Western Carolina category of sleepwalkable. In fact, they look like a lesser version of App State--the team that beat them on a last second field goal in their bowl game. They run the ball pretty well, and their defensive issues are mostly on the back-end, where the Vols have had trouble taking advantage. The Bobcats eviscerated Kansas in the trenches last week, so if Tennessee is looking for an improvement in their line play this week, they'll have about as sturdy of a challenge as you can expect from a MAC outfit. Expect this one to be closer than it should be, but not close enough to scare Vols fans the way the Mountaineers and Hokies did. Tennessee 31 Ohio 20
Will (2-0 straight up, 1-1 against the spread): I have some low-grade anxiety about this game, but then again I feel like we've all had some low-grade anxiety about this team since the second quarter of the first game. I agree the Vols will need to throw the ball against Ohio and I agree we probably still won't come out like gangbusters and be aggressive (b-e aggressive). But one of the things I have far less anxiety over is Tennessee's defense. Even if the offense beats its head against Ohio's wall for most of the day, I don't see Ohio's offense doing much to make a difference. Tennessee 27 Ohio 7
Joel (2-0 straight up, 0-2 against the spread): Tennessee 42 Ohio 24
Chris (2-0 straight up, 0-2 against the spread): Last week, I predicted a lackluster win that wouldn't really make anyone happy. The final score wasn't even close. Why mess with a good thing? Tennessee 24 Ohio 13
Hunter (2-0 straight up, 1-1 against the spread): How bad is Ohio's defense? The Bobcats gave up 38 points in regulation to Texas State (#94 in offensive S&P+) and 21 points to Kansas (#111 in offensive S&P+), the worst major conference team for several years running. Sure, the Vols could fall all over themselves looking forward to the Gators, but even that might not be enough to prevent Tennessee from covering the spread. Tennessee 38 Ohio 3
Volundore (2-0 straight up, 1-1 against the spread): You'll forgive me for being a bit less sanguine about our ability to score than Hunter, but a noon start against a MAC team the week before Florida has "sluggish" and "vanilla" written all over it. I'm not expecting the offense to blow me away. The defense? They'd better look alive. Ohio is currently top 40 in rush yards per game (12th), pass yards per game (35th) and total yards per game (12th). Yes, that's a function of the competition, but the Bobcats will score a few times, especially if UT struggles to get consistent LB play. The Vols aren't in any danger of losing the game (note: I also said this about APP STATE), but be ready for some frustration and stay far away from any hypotheticals involving the Big Orange. Tennessee 34 Ohio 17
Justin (2-0 straight up, 1-1 against the spread): Fellas, fellas, fellas - what's all these scores I'm seeing in the 30's??? Ohio gave up 38 to Texas State in regulation (in an eventual 56-54 OT loss).
Trey (2-0 straight up, 1-1 against the spread): So here's a crazy stat: against Kansas, Ohio ran 93 plays; The Jayhawks ran 45. Some other mildly interesting stats:
Rocky Top Talk Staff Average (2-0 straight up, 1-1 against the spread): Tennessee 36 Ohio 14
Vegas: Tennessee -27.5. Over/under 58. Tennessee 43 Ohio 15