The West Virginia Mountaineers are moderate favorites over the Tennessee Volunteers. After opening around a touchdown favorite, this line ballooned to double digits over the summer months. West Virginia sits as a -10 point favorite.
That line is likely inflated by what people saw in 2017 from Tennessee. The Vols went 4-8 and were absolutely abysmal down the stretch, leading to Butch Jones’ ultimate removal. In steps Jeremy Pruitt, who could not be more different. The culture change is well underway in Knoxville, and that has Tennessee fans fired up for this season and beyond.
Tennessee will be debuting a new offensive and defensive scheme, offering up plenty of question marks heading into this one.
The Vols will likely start redshirt sophomore quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, who will hit the reset button after a rough 2017. Guarantano will have some talented playmakers around him as Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway return. Running backs Ty Chandler, Tim Jordan and Madre London should form a nice trio in the backfield.
Tennessee should be able to put some points on the board and take advantage of West Virginia’s defense, which ranked 106th in the nation last year. The problem will come on the defensive side of the ball. Quarterback Will Grier leads the West Virginia offense, which should be one of the best in the nation in 2018.
Jeremy Pruitt is electing to start a couple of true freshmen cornerbacks in Bryce Thompson and Alontae Taylor, which could be a weakness that Grier can exploit. Tennessee also doesn’t have an established pass rusher, so expect plenty of blitz looks from Pruitt and defensive coordinator Kevin Sherrer.
I think Tennessee hangs in and finds a way to cover. This team isn’t totally dry in terms of talent. The problem will be on the defensive side, which likely doesn’t have the pieces in place to truly compete just yet. However, I think Tennessee can take advantage of West Virginia’s defense enough to stay within 10 points. I also love the over here, with both defenses in question.