Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-3 SU, 7-4-1 ATS) vs. No. 21 Tennessee Volunteers (8-4 SU, 5-7 ATS)
College Football Franklin American Music City Bowl Preview
Date/Time: Friday December 30th, 2016. 3:30PM (EST)
Where: Nissan Stadium Nashville, T.N.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NEB +3/TENN -3
Over/Under Total: 61
The 2016 Franklin American Music City Bowl has provided an intriguing pairing this year as the Nebraska Cornhuskers will square off with the no. 21 Tennessee Volunteers inside Nissan Stadium on Friday December, 30th. These two teams have a pretty historic history most notably with their 1998 Orange Bowl game that vaulted Nebraska to the National Championship over Peyton Manning and the Vols. These two teams also squared off two years later in another prestigious Fiesta Bowl matchup which was also won by Nebraska. This year’s Music City Bowl will mark the 3rd meeting and the Volunteers are currently favored by 3 as they try to get their first win over the Cornhuskers.
At one point this season, Tennessee was the Cinderella Story in college football. The Volunteers erased a 21-3 deficit at the half against Florida to score 35 unanswered points to reach the 4-0 mark and then backed that up with another come from behind Hail Mary game winning touchdown pass against Georgia the next week. At that point, the Volunteers appeared as if magic was on their side as they clearly stood atop the SEC East with no threats in sight. However, Tennessee’s Cinderella Story would soon reach midnight as the Vols came crashing back down to earth with 3 straight losses including a surprising upset against South Carolina.
The midseason collapse by the Volunteers turned a certain SEC Championship Game bound team into another Rocky Top campaign filled with disappointment at the helm of Coach Butch Jones. However despite the disappointment of the things that “could have been”, the Volunteers will have the change to extract some revenge on an old nemesis and improve Jones’ perfect bowl record when these two teams tangle on December 30th. In order to do so, Tennessee needs to shake off the way the regular season ended with an upset loss to Vanderbilt (45-34) in a game where the Commodores destroyed the Vols defense to the tune of 608 yards of total offense.
It has been those types of defensive performances that have plagued this Tennessee team this year along with the fact they have been awful at protecting the football. The Volunteers have given the ball away 25 times this season which ranks 115th in the FBS. The Volunteers are loaded with talent on offense led by quarterback Joshua Dobbs. Dobbs can do a little bit of everything. He can throw the ball well (63.5%, 2,655 yards, 26 TDs, and 12 INTs) and he can also run the ball very effectively (713 yards, 9 TDs). The offense in general has had little trouble scoring this season as they have the 26th best scoring offense in the FBS behind the stellar play of Dobbs and a talented receiving core.
For Tennessee they simply have to avoid the self-inflicted wounds that have cost them so often this season. If those turnovers continue or defensive collapse, Nebraska has shown the ability to post some big numbers at times this season. The major question and potentially the biggest impact to the betting side of this game will be the status of quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. Armstrong is still trying to heal a hamstring injury that occurred in the win over Maryland. He has had a setback in his timetable and currently the offense is preparing with backup quarterback Ryker Fyfe.
I think this game cannot be truly determined until the status of their quarterback is cemented. The Cornhuskers have a solid running game behind tailback Terrell Newby but this offense is not the same without Armstrong despite his mediocre passing stats this season. I personally do not believe that Nebraska can win without Armstrong and I would consider Tennessee a huge play if Fyke indeed has to start. Therefore, keep an eye on the quarterback situation in the days ahead.
Jay's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Despite the quarterback dilemma, I feel confident in the under 61 total. Both defenses have played well and I expect scoring to resemble that fact. Also, Nebraska has reached the under mark in 8 of their last 10 games. Take the under 61
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