Tennessee Volunteers (5-4, 6-3 ATS) at Mississippi Rebels (6-3, 4-3 ATS)
Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Oxford, M.S. Saturday November 14th 12:00PM Eastern
By Jay Horne of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Vols +4/Ole Miss -4
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The Tennessee Volunteers have really emerged over the past month of football as a legitimate contender in the SEC. The Volunteers may sit barely above the .500 mark on the season, but they have been able to win 3 of their last 4 games with the only loss coming from that blocked field goal that prevented Tennessee from upsetting Alabama. Coach Lane Kiffin finally has the Volunteers playing as expected, but they will go on the road this Saturday and face a tough test in the Mississippi Rebels. The Rebels are another team that was thought to be much better this season, but they are still 6-3 on the season and have the chance to win 9 games as they did a season ago. However, the offense which has been plagued with turnovers will have to withstand a tenacious Tennessee defense if they are to capture the home victory this Saturday afternoon.
The Rebels will actually enter the contest as 4 point favorites and that is mainly due to their strong defense. Mississippi has failed to relinquish more than 20 points in any single game this season and they maintain the nation’s 12th ranked scoring defense allowing just 15 points per game. The defense does a good job at getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks and they average 2.78 sacks per ball game. The secondary has benefited from opposing quarterbacks who have been under fire holding teams to just 180 yards per game. The Rebels defense will get the chance to rattle Volunteers QB Jonathan Crompton who has been known to throw interceptions throughout his career. However, Crompton has been playing much better in recent weeks.
If Tennessee is to come out moving the football again this week, the Rebels offense must get more production than they have against SEC opponents this year. Despite the Rebels maintaining a 30 point scoring average, they have just managed just 17 points per contest in conference match-ups. In those SEC games, QB Jevan Snead has thrown 11 of his SEC leading 13 interceptions this season. WR Shay Hodge is having a solid season with 45 catches for 733 yards and 6 scores. Hodge will have every opportunity to reach the 1,000 yard receiving mark as he will likely be playing on Sunday’s this time next year. Hodge and Dexter McCluster will be critical players this Saturday in helping the offense breakthrough and score some points. McCluster has also experienced a decrease in production from the passing game, but the Rebels have gotten the ball in his hands on the ground which he has been able to produce 473 yards. The Rebels all-purpose threat will need a big game as will the entire offense this Saturday.
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The Volunteers defense has also played well this season just less than 19 points per contest. Tennessee may have the best pass defense in the SEC led by veteran safety Eric Berry. The key will be for the defensive guys up front to get pressure on Snead. If they can keep Snead uncomfortable, the secondary could really make him pay for his bad throws converting them into interceptions. The Rebels best chance to move the ball may be by spreading out the Tennessee defense and running the ball while completing some shorter passes. However, if the defense can get pressure up front it will prevent those plays from happening and possibly force the offense to make some mistakes.
The Volunteers offense is led by senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton. Crompton has 10 interceptions on the year which has been a problem throughout his career. However, the Tennessee quarterback has thrown just 2 picks in the last 5 games while posting 14 touchdowns during that same stretch. Crompton threw a career high 5 touchdown for 331 yards in last week’s thrashing over Memphis and if he can stay hot Tennessee will be tough to handle. Running back Montario Hardesty is another impact player to keep on the radar. Hardesty is averaging 100 yards exactly through 9 games this season with 8 touchdowns and has proven to be a factor in the big games this season. If Crompton suffers any setbacks, the Volunteers can still win this game from riding the legs of Hardesty and that balance will help Tennessee stay hot this Saturday.
Jay’s Pick - Volunteers win convincingly by double digits as an underdog no less!