Tennessee Volunteers vs. UCLA Bruins Preview and Pick

Tennessee Volunteers (0-0) -7.5, 46.5 O/U at UCLA Bruins (0-0)
+7.5, 46.5 O/U, Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif., 8 PM Eastern, Monday
September 1st

by Badger of Predictem.com

The Rick Neuheisel era at UCLA starts off with a major test on Labor
Day night when the Bruins welcome the 18th-ranked Tennessee
Volunteers into the Rose Bowl for both teams 2008 season opener.

Neuheisel was hired away from the NFLs Baltimore Ravens in the offseason to try and restore the Bruins football program back to
national prominence. He also brought another big name coach with him
when he lured Norm Chow away from the Tennessee Titans to be his
offensive coordinator.

But coaching alone will not help them versus a Tennessee program that
ended 2007 with a 10-4 record (8-4 ATS) and a victory over Wisconsin
in the Outback Bowl. The Volunteers will have a few holes to fill
from last years team, namely at quarterback, but the core of the
team returns in tact for what looks to be another shot at a 10-win
season in Knoxville.

Oddsmaker opened the game with Tennessee as an early 7-point favorite on the road, which has already moved up half a point to 7.5-
point favorites at most offshore sportsbooks. The total opened at 49,
but it too has already dropped down to 46.5 at most houses. While the
Vols are listed as -320 favorites on the moneyline, with UCLA listed
as +260 underdogs.

Offensively this game should be interesting to watch, since neither team really has a proven commodity at quarterback.

Neuheiselwatched in horror during summer training camp as projected starter Ben Olson continued his injury-prone history, breaking his
foot during a scrimmage. Olson was supposed to compete with Patrick
Cowen for the job, but Cowen tore up his knee in spring practice, so
now the Bruins will turn to transfer Kevin Craft to call the signals.

Tennessee meanwhile will hand over the quarterback job to Jonathan
Crompton, who replaces Erik Ainge. The good news for Crompton is that
his entire offensive line returns in tact, a line that led the nation
by allowing just four sacks all season last year.

Crompton will also have the benefit of more weapons to take the pressure off him in his first start, as both running back Arian Foster (1,193 yds., 14 TD) and leading receiver Lucas Taylor (1,000
yds., 5 TD) return to power the Vols attack. Foster is nursing a knee
injury, but he is expected to play as he is listed as day-to-day.

Craft will need help to get the Bruins offense going, and he will likely turn to running back Kahlil Bell (795 yds., 5 TD) to carry the load. Bell returns and the Bruins will look to improve upon their 153.4 rushing yards per game average (59th in NCAA) to try and take
the heat off of Craft.

Defensively both teams should be in midseason form. Neuheisel was also able to keep defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker at UCLA, so
dont expect much of a drop in production as the Bruins defense
finished 31st in yards allowed per game (345.2) and 30th in points
allowed (22.3), both impressive numbers playing in the powerful PAC
10 Conference.

Tennessee will need to find a replacement for middle linebacker Jarod Mayo in the heart of their defense (Mayo was draft by New England in
the first round), but with linebacker Rico McCoy and safety Eric
Berry both returning its not like the Volunteers will be completely
void of talent on defense.

Tennessee has won four of the six meetings with the Bruins historically, with the last victory being a 30-24 triumph back in
September of 1997. The Vols have also covered the spread in five of
those six games, while four of the five games stayed under the total.

There are a few other interesting betting trends, with a few of them conflicting.

Tennessee is a strong 15-3 ATS in its last 19 games as road favorites
of 7 points or less, but UCLA is 11-1 ATS when playing against a team
with a winning record the last two seasons. Plus, UCLA is 20-7 ATS in
its last 27 home games in the Rose Bowl, and they are 17-4 ATS in
their last 21 games as home underdogs.

The under also looks to be a solid bet, as UCLA has come in under the total in six of their last eight non-conference games is an impressive 11-2 the past two season in games played at the Rose Bowl.

Badgers Pick: Its hard to get a good read on this game because no one has any idea what Neuheisel and the new-look Bruins will do. That
said, I must admit that historically Neuheisel and been stellar
(66-30 in eight seasons, seven bowls, three top-10 finishes) so its
hard to imagine him not putting together a formidable squad.
Tennessee struggled last year in the season opener at Cal (lost
45-31), and that team was better on paper. So Im going with UCLA
plus the points, as Tennessee wins the game late but the half-point
hook allows the Bruins to cover. Take UCLA plus the 7.5.