Northwestern Wildcats (10-2 SU, 8-4 ATS) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (8-4 SU, 7-5 ATS)
College Football Outback Bowl
Date/Time: Friday, January 1, 12:00pm
Where:Raymond James Stadium – Tampa, Florida
by Bob, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NW +7.5 / TEN -7.5
Over/Under Total: 48
In 1986, the Hall of Fame Bowl became an annual event pairing teams from the SEC and the Big Ten. In 1996, the game became known as the Outback Bowl, which still remains so today. In the last few seasons, the Big Ten and SEC have both made cases as to being the best conference in college football, and where this single game does not dictate the true best conference, whichever teams wins does have that bit of bragging right over the other conference.
This years Outback Bowl will feature the 10-2 Northwestern Wildcats of the Big Ten against the Tennessee Volunteers who went 8-4 while playing in the SEC. Northwestern had a very successful season based on their standards and Tennessee is still being considered the team on the rise in the SEC. Both of these teams play a very physical style of football and I can see this being a very entertaining contest.
When this game was announced, the Tennessee Volunteers started as a 9.5 point favorite over Northwestern. Now, the line has dropped to 7.5 still in favor of the Vols. Even with the line dropping, Northwestern is still seeing most of the action getting 68% of the publics money. Against the spread this season, both teams did pretty well. Northwestern finished with an 8-4 mark against the lines while Tennessee finished the 2015 season 7-5 against the spread.
Tennessee may be 8-4 on the season, but if you are not an SEC fan and do not follow the conference, little do you know how close this team was to winning the SEC East. Tennessee not only lost a handful of close SEC games, but they blew a two touchdown lead over Oklahoma only to lose in double overtime 31-24. Along with the Oklahoma loss, they also blew a 13 point lead to the Florida Gators with under five minutes left in regulation. This was eventually the game that lost them the SEC East title. Out of the four losses for the Vols, two were against Final Four teams (Oklahoma / Alabama) and another was against the eventual SEC East champ (Florida). This team is on the verge of great things. The Tennessee offense is built around dual threat QB, Josh Dobbs and running back, Jalen Hurd. Dobbs passed for over 2,100 yards and fifteen scores in 2015 while Jalen Hurd rushed for over 1,100 yards and eleven touchdowns. The Tennessee defense has also played well ever since Butch Jones took over as head coach. This is a very tough team that is much better than their record indicates. In order to win this game and cover the spread over Northwestern, Tennessee must get points. Northwestern is a hard nosed team that can play some great defense, but if Josh Dobbs can do what he does, I think Tennessee has a good chance of an easy win.
Northwestern had one of the best seasons in school history in 2015. Going 10-2 and finishing second place in the Big Ten West division, the Wildcats turned some heads not only in the Big Ten but across the nation. The only two losses of the season were to Michigan and Iowa. Iowa was just one final win away from making the College Football Playoff, while Michigan has been reborn under new head coach, Jim Harbaugh. These two losses are nothing to be ashamed of. Much of the Wildcats success can be credited to their defense. In their 5-0 start to 2015, Northwesterns defense pitched two shutouts, held Stanford to just six points, and beat a very good Duke team by a score of 19-10. This defense is legit. With that said, there is not much to say about the Northwestern offense. They are not bad by any means but the success they have is a product of the great defensive play. The key to the Outback Bowl is for the offense to play mistake free football while the defense keeps Dobbs and Hurd in check. If Northwestern can slow this game down and keep the scores in the teens or mid 20s, I can see them staying within the touchdown spread, if not winning.
This is a tough one, it really is, but I am going with the fact that I like teams that play defense. I believe that Northwestern will play well enough to keep this game respectable. I still believe Tennessee wins the game but by less than seven. I foresee a 20-14 type win for the Volunteers.
Bobs Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Take the Northwestern Wildcats +7.5
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