Teams headed in opposite directions on the college football betting odds board hook up when Tennessee (6-6) meets North Carolina (7-5) in the Music City Bowl.
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The Tennessee Volunteers started the season with six SU losses in their first eight games, leading backers to wonder aloud if this was the worst team in program history. Tennessee got it together down the stretch in SEC play, however, winning its last five games against the number (4-1 SU) to advance to bowl season.
The North Carolina Tar Heels had high hopes heading into the season, but injuries, an NCAA investigation, and inconsistent play conspired to hand them an up-and-down year. UNC did go a respectable 7-3 SU (5-5 ATS) after beginning the season with back-to-back losses to LSU and Georgia Tech, but it was only 1-5 ATS (3-3 SU) in its last six contests.
Music City value
Considering how both schools finished the season, it’s easy to like the Vols at their current price. College Football betting odds opened Tennessee as 1-point underdogs against North Carolina, and it had been bet up to +2 at some outlets as of press time.
The total is holding steady at 50 and 50.5 depending on the shop after opening at 50, and there’s reason to take the ‘over’ even if the Heels went 4-8 O/U this season, including 2-8 O/U in their last 10 games.
The Vols played ‘over’ the listed total in nine of their 12 matchups this season, and are 7-1 O/U in their last eight games as an underdog.
Above the Bray
Tennessee became a different team once Tyler Bray took over from Louisville transfer Mike Simms at quarterback. Bray threw 12 touchdowns during the Vols’ four-game SU and ATS winning streak to end the season, while Simms managed to toss only eight TDs in the first eight games of the campaign.
Bray (20 of 38 for 354 yards with two scores and two interceptions) wasn’t at his best in Tennessee’s 24-14 win over Kentucky in the regular season finale on November 27, but rest assured he’s the reason the Vols have turned it around in short order.
North Carolina had a total of 35 scholarship players miss at least one game this season either because of injury, NCAA investigation, or suspension, including 14 starters. Seven regulars were forced to sit out the entire season, with star defensive end Marvin Austin being the most notable absence.
The Heels will be even thinner than usual on Thursday. Starting right guard Alan Pelc (left shoulder) and linebacker Bruce Carter (knee surgery, torn ACL) are out against the Vols, and Pelc’s loss is a bigger blow. Sophomore Travis Bond is expected to step in at RG, but more importantly, Pelc is UNC’s backup center. If the Heels have issues at the position on Thursday, they’ll be scrambling.
It’s not exactly Rocky Top, but Tennessee is expected to hit LP Field in front of a largely pro-Vols crowd on Thursday. It should give Tennessee a slim boost, but it could be the difference in what should be a close game.
This is also North Carolina’s first bowl game outside its home state. The Heels’ last three bowl game appearances came at in Charlotte at the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Let it rain
The forecast is calling for a 50% chance of rain in Nashville on Thursday, with temperatures expected in the high 30s to high 40s at kickoff.
Square bettors tend to side with the ‘under’ in inclement weather, but the ‘over’ is just as likely when it gets messy. Football is a game of reaction, and a slippery field makes it hard for defenders to adjust to the offense.
Both schools have trouble running the ball, and the team that breaks through in Nashville should take home the payday for bettors. North Carolina was 90th in rushing (129.3 YPG) this season, while Tennessee ranked 100th (120.3 YPG).