Memphis Tigers vs. Tennessee Volunteers Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Memphis Tigers (2-6 SU, 1-6 ATS) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (4-4 SU, 5-3 ATS), 7:00 p.m. EST, Saturday, November 7, 2009, Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tenn. TV: ESPNU
by Ryno of

Point Spread: Memphis +26/Tennessee -26
Over/Under: 52

When Memphis and Tennessee meet in basketball, it’s a special game. In football, it doesn’t carry the same luster. But the inner-state rivalry will still be there when the Tigers and Volunteers meet Saturday night in Knoxville.

Tennessee has played great in its last three games. First, the Vols blew out Georgia, 45-19. Quarterback Jonathan Crompton was 20-for-27 for 310 yards and four touchdowns. Then, the Vols lost 12-10 to undefeated Alabama. They had a field goal attempt in the final seconds to win the game that was blocked by Alabama. The Tennessee defense stepped up big time and held the powerful Alabama offense to just 256 yards of total offense, including 99 yards from Heisman candidate running back Mark Ingram. Last week, Tennessee rolled over South Carolina, 31-13. Running back Montario Hardesty ran for 121 yards and two touchdowns. It has been different players stepping up each week for the Vols.

Memphis is not having a very good season. The Tigers have only one win over a FBS team, a 35-20 win over UTEP. None of their six losses have been single-digit losses. The Tigers haven’t scored more than 19 points in a loss. When the Tigers won over UTEP, it was because of running back Curtis Steele. He carried the ball 39 times for 240 yards and two touchdowns. But even in the win, the Tigers allowed UTEP to gain 442 yards of offense.

Steele got almost half of his rushing yards this season in that one game against UTEP. He has 596 yards and five touchdowns in six games. Three different Memphis quarterbacks have attempted at least 55 passes this season. Will Hudgens, who was 33-for-48 for 313 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, started in the last game against East Carolina and will likely be the starter again when the Tigers face Tennessee. For the season, Hudgens has 958 passing yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions. The No. 1 wide receiver for Memphis is Duke Calhoun, who has 50 receptions for 764 yards and five touchdowns.

For Tennessee, Crompton has a total of 1,617 passing yards, 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions this season. Hardesty has 841 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.

The key for Tennessee to dominate this game will be to stop Memphis’s running attack. The Vols were able to hold Ingram to under 100 yards and they have allowed 107.8 rushing yards per game and only four rushing touchdowns, ranking as the 12th best run defense in the country. Memphis’s run defense has not been nearly as good as that of Tennessee. The Tigers are allowing 197.8 rushing yards per game and have given up 17 rushing touchdowns this season. Tennessee has the 15th best pass defense in the country, allowing 173.9 passing yards per game. The Vols have only allowed four passing touchdowns. Only three teams have allowed fewer passing touchdowns.

The only way Memphis will be able to keep this game close is if its defense steps up big time. The Vols don’t have an incredibly powerful offense, so good defense can keep the game low scoring. The Tigers are facing one of the best defenses in the country, so they will be fortunate to score any points. If Steele can’t run the ball decently, the Tigers have no chance at all. But if he can get some good blocking and help the Tigers hold onto the ball and slow the game down, the Tigers could keep the game low scoring.

Memphis 0-3 ATS on the road this season and 1-5-1 ATS in its last seven road games. The total has gone under in 14 of Tennessee’s last 19 games, but the total has gone over in four of the Vols’ last six home games. Tennessee defeated Memphis last season, 41-7.

Ryno’s Pick: Memphis will struggle to score points in this game. Tennessee held Alabama to 12 points, so imagine what Memphis can do – not much. The only question is how motivated Tennessee will be to blow out the Tigers by as much as possible. This game could be a shutout or close to it, but that doesn’t mean Tennessee will score enough points to cover. The Vols do have a better chance of covering than the Tigers do, but the under is the best play. The Tigers will be lucky to score one touchdown, and the Vols don’t have an incredible offense. Take the under of 52.