Pick Oklahoma to Cover Large Spread vs. Tennessee

Darin Zank

Monday, September 8, 2014 6:23 PM GMT

Monday, Sep. 8, 2014 6:23 PM GMT

The Sooners have looked pretty good so far this season, jumping out to a couple of big early leads, but blowing one cover. How will Oklahoma do against Tennessee and a three-touchdown point spread Saturday night in Norman (8 pm ET, ABC)?

The Betting Odds
In the early betting most online sportsbooks we checked were chalking Oklahoma at -20.5 over Tennessee. Anybody interested in backing a Vols victory with their college football picks in this game outright could get a price of +850 on the money line at 5dimes.

 

Game Set-Up
Oklahoma opened this season with a 48-16 victory over Louisiana Tech, although it couldn't hang on to  cover as a 34-point favorite. The Sooners then trounced Tulsa last Saturday 52-7, earning the cash as 24-point chalk on the road.

OU led its season opener against the Bulldogs 31-0 just before halftime, and 41-3 through three quarters, but gave up the cover when it allowed Tech to score an absolutely meaningless touchdown  with 30 seconds to go in the game.

The Sooners then led Tulsa 31-0 halfway through the second quarter, and took care of business from there.

Oklahoma began this season pegged with a wins 'over/under' of 10.5. The Sooners had five starters back on offense, including QB Trevor Knight and three along the offensive line, and nine starters returned from a defense that gave up just 22 points per game last year.

Tennessee began this season with a 38-7 win over Utah State, covering as four-point home chalk, then defeated Arkansas State 34-19 but couldn't quite cover at -16.

The Vols out-gained the Aggies 383-244 but could only grind out 110 yards on the ground on 39 carries. They then out-gained the Red Wolves 415-331 but needed 45 rushes to produce 168 yards. So for the season they're averaging just 3.3 yards per rush, a figure they'd surely like to improve upon. Unfortunately, that improvement might not happen this weekend against this OU defense.

Tennessee went off this season with a wins 'over/under' of 5.5. Only 10 starters were back, none on either line. The Vols returned senior QB Justin Worley and his top two targets, but lost thousand-yard rusher Rajon Neal and the entire starting offensive line. And just five starters were back on defense, none along the front four.

We're not sure there was another college football team in the country that had to replace every spot on both lines this season.

On top of that the Vols just suffered a hit when starting OL Jacob Gilliam tore a knee last week, ending his season.

 

When Last They Met
These two traditional college football powers haven't met since Coach Fairbanks' Sooners beat Coach Dickey's Vols 26-24 in the 1968 Orange Bowl. Sounds like it was a good one. Oklahoma led 19-0 at the half, only to have Tennessee get within 26-24 late. But the rally came up short when the Vols missed a 43-yard field goal – hey, those were tough to hit back then – in the final seconds.

 

Vols-Sooners Betting Trends
Tennessee is just 1-4 ATS in its last five games as a road dog. The Vols are also 0-4 ATS as dogs of 20 or more points over the last three seasons.

Oklahoma is 5-4 ATS the last nine times it's been favored by 20 points or more.

 

Free College Football Pick
It will be interesting to see how the inexperienced offensive and defensive lines for Tennessee fare against Oklahoma's big boys. Our guess is it won't turn out too well for the Vols. That's why we're going to give the points and go with the Sooners for our free pick in this spot.

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