College Football Betting Picks: Utah State Aggies at Tennessee Volunteers

Utah State Aggies at Tennessee Volunteers
Neyland Stadium – Knoxville, Tennessee

Sunday, August 31, 2014, 7:00 pm Eastern, TV: SEC Network
Opening Line: Tennessee -7
Current Line: Tennessee -4
Opening Total: 52
Current Total: 51
Opening Money Line: Tennessee -150 / Utah State +120
Current Money Line: Tennessee -200 / Utah State +170

Tennessee is a 4 point favorite at home Sunday against Utah State in the season opener for both schools.
Tennessee is a 4 point favorite at home Sunday against Utah State in the season opener for both schools.

The Tennessee Volunteers and Utah State Aggies meet for the first time ever Sunday night in Knoxville.

Utah State is coached by Matt Wells, now in his second year as coach of the Aggies. Utah State went 9-5 last year and won the Mountain West Mountain Division. The Aggies lost to Fresno State 24-17 in the Mountain West Championship game, but would upset a one loss Northern Illinois team 21-14 in the Poinsettia Bowl. The Aggies averaged 233 passing and 178 rushing yards per game last season on offense. On defense Utah State allowed 224 passing yards and 107 rushing yards per game. The Aggies outscored opponents 32-17 last season. Only 8 starters are back though in 2014 including just 3 on offense.

Tennessee is coached by Butch Jones, now in his second year with the Volunteers. Tennessee went 5-7 last year. The Volunteers had narrow losses to Georgia and Vanderbilt, but did upset South Carolina. Tennessee averaged 165 passing yards and 188 rushing yards on offense. On defense, the Volunteers allowed 211 passing yards and 207 rushing yards per game. Tennessee was outscored 29-24 last season. Ten starters are back for the Volunteers including 5 on offense.

Star Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton tore his ACL midway through last season in a loss to BYU. Before the injury Keeton had completed 69.4% of his passes for 1,388 yards with 18 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, along with 55 carries for 241 yards and 2 touchdowns. Keeton is back and could be a dark horse Heisman contender if he is healthy. Sophomore Darell Garretson took over for Keeton last year. He completed 60.3% of his passes for 1,446 yards with 10 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Craig Harrison took some snaps and threw for 434 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception.

The Aggies must replace their top two leading rushers in Joey DeMartino (221 carries, 1,221 yards and 13 touchdowns, plus 13 catches and a touchdown) and  Robert Marshall (94 carries for 415 yards and a touchdown. Joe Hill rushed for 252 yards last year in five games before a knee injury ended his season. He is back and should be the feature back.

Travis Reynolds and Travis Van Leeuwen combined for over a 100 catches, almost 1,500 yards and 7 touchdowns. Both have graduated.  Bruce Natson is back after making 59 catches for 395 yards and 2 touchdowns. Brandon Swidall had only 29 catches but had 285 yards and 6 touchdowns.

Utah State had a top 10 defense last season allowing just 330 yards and 17 points a game. Still with only 5 starters back, they could take a step back from the elite level they have played in the last two years.

Tennessee used three quarterbacks last year but none were very effective. Justin Worley was named the starter for 2014 after he threw for 1,239 yards with 10 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. If Worley struggles, then Joshua Dobbs (695 yards with 2 touchdowns and 6 interceptions) or Nathan Peterman (45 yards and 2 interceptions) could step in. Dobbs is the most mobile of the three and had 38 carries for 189 yards and a touchdown.

Leading rusher Rajion Neal is gone after he had 215 carries for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns, plus 27 catches for 108 yards. Marlin Lane is back though and he had 101 carries for 534 yards and 4 touchdowns. Five star recruit Jalen Hurd will also see action and get plenty of carries. The offensive line returns only one starter and could struggle though.


The top two receivers are back for the Volunteers in Marquez North (38 catches, 496 yards and a touchdown) and Alton Howard (44 catches for 388 yards and 3 touchdowns). Another five star recruit receiver Josh Malone will also get plenty of targets.

Tennessee really struggled in stopping the run giving up over 200 yards a game. The Volunteers have five starters back including the top two tacklers.

Utah State is 6-0 ATS on grass, 13-3 in non-conference games, 4-1 against SEC teams, 10-3-1 in road games, and 20-6-1 overall.

Tennessee is 4-10 ATS at home, 1-4 overall, and 1-6 in non-conference games.

Utah State is one of the top teams in the Mountain West and should still have a top 25 defense nationally. However, even a lower tier SEC team should be favored by more than 4 points at home. The line opened at Tennessee -7 but has gone down 3 points. I like Tennessee to win but Utah State keeps it close.

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