Vols to entertain Mountaineers on Rocky Top
Most of the SEC big boys spring into action this weekend. Yet an East Division darling gets the first crack at showing out on the national stage.
No. 9 Tennessee hosts Sun Belt powerhouse Appalachian State tonight, kicking off a highly anticipated season in Knoxville. Irrespective of the Mountaineers’ penchant for causing early-campaign mischief (the Ann Arbor Incident of 2007, anyone?) Josh Dobbs and the Volunteers enter Neyland Stadium as online sports book BetDSI’s 20-point favorites here. The over/under total is 60.5.
After a nine-win effort in 2015, the Vols finally seem ready to take the next step under coach Butch Jones. Dobbs, who compiled 3,020 total yards as a junior, returns to orchestrate the offense. A pair of tremendous tailbacks, Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara, join the potential Heisman Trophy candidate. In short, App State’s well-regarded run D will have its hands full.
Of course, Scott Satterfield’s program also prioritizes the ground game. Workhorse Marcus Cox has amassed at least 1,200 yards in each of his first three years in North Carolina. Tennessee was very shaky against the run last fall, too, yielding 168.4 yards per tilt.
For that specific reason, Jones hired coordinator Bob Shoop away from Penn State. Throughout spring practices, Shoop repeatedly praised a much-improved front seven. Still, bravado won’t mean a thing if the Mountaineers waltz into town and generate explosive plays out of the backfield.
We definitely expect the Volunteers to capture their eighth straight opener. Nevertheless, Appalachian State brings back 17 starters from the group that toppled Ohio in last December’s Raycom Media Camellia Bowl. Satterfield’s troops are 17-2 in their past 19 contests as well. But while the App State faithful crave another Michigan-style upset, the Vols possess more than enough juice to pull away in the fourth quarter.
THURSDAY NCAA FREE PICK: APPALACHIAN STATE/TENNESSEE UNDER 60.5 POINTS