Music City Bowl Pick
At a time, both Nebraska and Tennessee were top-10 teams in the country. Now, they’ll meet in the Music City Bowl in Nashville coming off disappointing losses to close the season. Playing in a basic home Game, a couple hOurs from campus, the Volunteers were pushed to -3.5 point favorites as seen at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
Everything was going well for Nebraska in the early season, opening with seven-straight wins, but it helps with a favorable Schedule. Sure, Wyoming, Oregon and Northwestern provided tough challenges, but nothing like the opponents the Cornhuskers faced to close the season. In blowouts to Ohio State and Iowa, this team was exposed a bit and both of those came on the road.
While this may not be a home Game for Tennessee, it’s at least in the same state. The question is how much fans will care about this bowl for the Vols after another middling season. Everything went Tennessee’s way in their first five wins, then similar to Nebraska, their Schedule picked up and they lost three straight, highlighted by a loss at South Carolina. They closed with three wins, but lost the finale at Vanderbilt. This team may be talented, but don’t have any good wins this season that don’t involve luck.
But the problem for Nebraska in this Game is dealing with injuries. They’ll be without top receiver Jordan Westerkamp and senior quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. wasn’t practicing 10 days before the Game due to a bad hamstring. Armstrong played through the injury in the finale, but was supposedly only 30% as the Cornhuskers got destroyed 40-10. If Armstrong doesn’t play, Ryker Fyfe would get the start for just the third time in his career. The loss of Armstrong not only takes away experience, but also his ability in the ground Game and that showed up against Iowa. Running back Terrell Newby (864 yards, 7 TDs) can be effective, but his value takes a hit when Armstrong isn’t healthy.
That said, there aren’t many reasons to trust Tennessee, outside of defensive end Derek Barnett, who will try and win this Game by himself. Barnett has 12 sacks on the season to go with 18 tackles for loss and could change the result of this Game against a backup quarterback. Of course, this defense has struggled as a whole in recent Games, giving up at least 36 points in the final three Games including 45 to a bad Vanderbilt offense. If the Vols put in that same effort, there’s no reason a backup quarterback can’t beat them.
However, it’s hard to see senior quarterback Joshua Dobbs taking it easy on the offensive side, who is healthy. Dobbs had his best season statistically, throwing for 26 TDs and 12 INTs, while completing 63.3% of his passes. He hasn’t been amazing, but has done enough to get this team to eight wins, although that’s not saying much. Dobbs also leads the team in rushing (713 yards, 9 TDs), but Alvin Kamara and John Kelly provide plenty in the running Game, as well.
Nebraska’s defense has good numbers on the season, but it’s hard to get a good read on them. Remember, the Huskers were recently dropped 62-3 and 40-10 against Ohio State and Iowa and neither of those offenses has been that consistent this season. Dobbs gives the Vols an immediate edge, especially with Armstrong not healthy.
The Cornhuskers are 4-0-1 ATS In their last five following an ATS loss, 3-0-1 ATS in their last Four non-Conference Games and 10-1 ATS in their last 11 on grass. The Volunteers are 5-0 ATS in their last five neutral-site Games and 7-3 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
Our Pick – Nebraska +6.5