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CAL @ TENNESSEE
NCAA GAME OF THE WEEK
This is the game that jumps out at us (and just about everyone else) this first week of College football. It's got all the drama and intrigue that we all love about college football. This game is HUGE for both squads. You've got the Vols coming off a major disappointing season at 5-6 which is totally unacceptable at Tennesee. Prior the last year the Vols hadn't had a losing season since 1988 with all of those years topping the 8 win mark. Just look at the past 4 years prior to last, where the Vols had 10, 10, 8 and 11 win seasons. There is big time pressure on Vol coach Phil Fulmer this year. Anything less than 9 wins and they'll be calling for his head in Vol land.
Cal is under big time pressure as well, but for different reasons. After
winning only 1 game in 2001, this team has been rebuilt by coach Jeff Tedford
and a fine job he's done! Cal has strung together 8, 10 and 8 win seasons the
last three years and many are calling for Cal to unseat USC as the king of the
PAC 10 this year. Now those are some big shoes to fill and all eyes will be on
Cal as they tee it up on Saturday, September 2nd in Knoxville.
There is talent on both sides of the ball. The Vols have talent every year. They had talent last year for that matter. All of their losses were close and they play some pretty big names every year such as Florida, Alabama and LSU. The difference last year for Tennesee was a break here and a break there. Maybe a little luck here and there wouldn't hurt either. But look at just about any successful college football season and you'll find the breaks tend to all go your way.
Many are looking at this game and keying on the Cal powerhouse offense having a big edge over a Vol defense that has been revamped having lost 6 starters. We tend to disagree. Cal lost four starters on the offensive line and has questionmarks at QB. A major equalizer when Cal has the ball will be 105,000 screaming maniacs making alot of noise. Expect there to be plenty of offside calls and difficulty for Cal running that complicated offense in Knoxville over the crowd noise.. The 12th man does win games in many stadiums and Neyland Stadium is one of them. Breaking in a new offense with question marks on the offensive line and at QB isn't something any team wants to do at one of the toughest places to play at in College ball.
We're actually expecting more of a defensive battle here as Cal's "D", with 7 returning starters figures to be a force itself this year. Two good defensive units and a huge noisy crowd are all the ingredients needed to keep this game tight heading into the 4th quarter which is right where we want to be if we're laying -1.5 and basically just asking the Vols to win their 1st home game straight up for us.
Against the spread trends to note - Cal is 16-9-1 ATS their last 26 road games and is 7-2 ATS in road openers.
The Vols have won 11 straight season openers and are 8-3 ATS in those contests.
Last time Tennessee had a losing season, 5-6 in 1988, they came out and went 11-1 the following year, 1989
TENNESSEE -1.5 over California