Yep I'm back and there's no need for a long blog talking about how happy I am to be back. I'm ecstatic and I plan for a long and fruitful employment with the company. When I was at Barstool previously, I did plenty of gambling content. I will continue my Deep Dive previews with picks. Many know how ASTUTE of a gambler I am. I've been doing this for a long time, lets get it.
My first thoughts are with a big game tonight in Rocky Top for the Vols. The Josh Heupel era began with 7 wins. The offense was one of the best in the country. It was balanced and they moved the ball with ease putting up over 39 points a game. They played fast, ran a lot of plays, and were top 20 nationally in yards per play. Hendon Hooker is back off a massive season. He valued the football as well, possessions weren't thrown away with only 3 interceptions and a 65 percent completion percentage. He has his top WR and running back back. Yes this offensive line allowed a lot of sacks last year, but 4 of those guys are back and I expect a much better group this year, with a full off season with their QB and this coaching staff. That said, it's not likely they will be tested a ton in this game. Ball State's defensive line was horrific at getting to the QB and show no reason to believe they will be much improved this year with only two guy back on a bad defensive line. They only got a sack about 5.6 percent of the time, which was 90th in college football. This defense for the Cardinals just wasn't good last year. The passing defense was one of the worst in the MAC and are gonna have no problem getting torched here on the road with very little pass rush and limited talent in the secondary and facing such a big time offense. They also lost 6 of their 8 top tacklers from 2021.
Ball State will also have issues at QB. Drew Plitt is gone and that makes way for sparingly seen John Paddock. Paddock has NEVER started a game over his three years as backup to Plitt. In fact, he's only played in five total games in his career. Also, a random note regarding Paddock: His major at Ball State is "Professional Selling", whatever that is. Either way, I think he really struggles in this game particularly early in a very raucous atmosphere. For any team with a QB with limited experience is, they will try to lean on the backs and run the ball. The strength of this Tennessee defense is on the defensive line. The edge rushers in Tyler Baron and Byron Young are studs and the best overall linemen might be junior tackle Omari Thomas. Against competition like this we should see this Vols secondary get some confidence as a lot is riding on them to be better this year. Ball State has major concerns in this game and I don't know where the points come from. Throw in the fact that this isn't Eastern Michigan or some FCS team to start the season. This is really good SEC talent.
The angle I like here is Tennessee in the first half. EARLY and often, they come out FIRING against a very average football team. Paddock has a lot in front of him that I don't think he's prepared for in Neyland Stadium. Tennessee was 4th in the country last year in first half scoring per game. They were extremely good in the first half against poor competition as well, beating up 4 opponents by 28 or more in the first half last season. This game at half screams 35-10/31-3. I think either way you slice it Tennessee rolls. I don't want to worry about a backdoor with 2 minutes left if this game is 51-14. Vols do have Pitt on the road next week if it concerns you. I will say this though in a likely blowout, Joe Milton the back up for the Vols is more than capable of putting points on the board if you like full game. That said, I loved Vols 1H last year under Hendon Hooker and I'm starting the season out with hopefully a blowout.
PICK: Tennessee 1H -23.5 vs Ball State