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UCLA 10 Point Underdogs at Tennessee

9/12/09

The Tennessee Vols get a crack at some revenge this week as they host UCLA in a game that odds makers have them a hefty -10 point favorite. Last year the Vols outgained the Bruins by almost 100 yards but found themselves on the short end of a 27-24 overtime loss.

Tennessee and UCLA are both teams that have seen better days. It has been many years since UCLA produced an NCAA record 8 straight bowl wins. It has also been a while since they have won a Rose Bowl, or even appeared in the event. With 776 overall wins, the Vols are the second most winning team all time in the SEC. They have won the national championship 6 times, the last time coming 11 years ago. Will either of these times rise to glory again soon? I canít answer that question. I can however tell you that their game this week could give us a much needed clue.

Want to make a statement in the first week with your new team? Try winning a home game and putting up 63 points on the opposition while giving up a mere 7. Who cares if it was against the lowly Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky? 63 points is still 63 points. That is more points than they put up on any team in all of 2008. The Tennessee Volunteers have new life thanks to head coach Lane Kiffin. He is showing early on that his team may have some bite to go with the barking he has been doing during the offseason.

After registering their second losing season in four years Tennessee looks intent to win after bringing in Kiffin and his coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin inherits a defense that was ranked 3rd after spending 26 years in the NFL. He will be able to impart plenty of wisdom to the 5 returning starters and the new starters. Safety Eric Berry was SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2008. The junior is back this year. They wonít compete on the national scene just yet, but Kiffin is putting the pieces in place for the future. He was able to lock down a top ten recruiting class in his first year.

The UCLA Bruinís football program is one that has been in disarray in recent years. They won only a single game on the road in 2008 and that win came against Washington; a team that finished the year 0-12. Rich Neuheiselís team is off to an OK start this year, winning their first game over San Diego State by a score of 33-14. Freshman QB Kevin Prince looked bad throwing for 176 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INTs. Sophomore RB Derrick Coleman picked up 69 yards and 1 TD on 4 carries. The offense was shaky in that win and will have to do leaps and bounds better to keep up with Tennessee. Coleman will be integral if UCLA is to pull off a win over Tennessee.

Defense will be the key to winning for the UCLA Bruins. They ranked 8th in the country against the pass last year, but were poor against the run at 89th. Overall they finished at 47th in total defense. DT Brian Price will be an asset for the Bruins. He will make plenty of noise on the defensive line. The linebacker corps is the strongest part of the team. Reggie Carter and Kyle Bosworth will both be a force. Bosworth is returning from a knee injury. Stopping the run will be crucial for UCLA. If the Volunteers are able to pound the ball then they will make short work of UCLA.

There's a big difference between a Western Kentucky defense and a UCLA defense. It's nice to beat up on a lesser opponent to build confidence and get the kinks out but it can also backfire when the Vols find that things that worked so well last week, aren't working this week. Anytime a team scores 63 points, the betting public automatically rides them the following week creating extra value by going against them.

Both teams return a fair number of starters from a year ago. UCLA should be a little further along with coach Rick Neuheisel now in his 2nd year. It takes some time for a new coach to get things rolling his way, which is the situation the Vols are in with Kiffin. We're going to recommend two plays here. Tennessee +6 in the first half and +10 for the game. This one should be a little closer than the number suggests.

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