Ball State @ Tennessee
Ball State +35½ +102 over Tennessee

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Posted at 1:15 PM EST and odds are subject to change.

The best price here is at Pinnacle Ball State +35½ +102

Ball State +35½ over Tennessee

Neyland Stadium - Knoxville, Tennessee

7:00 PM EST. Ball State is obviously in tough here, but nobody in this space is asking them to win this game. Instead, we are going to trust that the Cardinals know they are playing with house money and they are not going to be out-hustled. Now, let’s move on to the true target of this play.

Head coach Josh Heupel starts his second year in Knoxville with high expectations. His Volunteers are pegged as the second-best team behind Georgia in the SEC East and sixth overall in that loaded Southeast Conference. It’s easy to see why the pundits like the Vols—they return 6’3” wide receiver Cedric Tillman, a late bloomer after a breakout junior season. Tillman went off for 64 receptions for 1081 yards and 12 touchdowns. A great season, no doubt, however, it’s not disrespectful to say that this time a year ago that Tillman was not on anybody’s radar. Prior to last season, Tillman posted just seven catches for 127 over two years.

The Vols will make a key change at an important position with Florida transfer Gerald Mincey auditioning at left tackle for the first time. Mincey will be tasked with protecting Hendon Hooker, a dual-threat quarterback who is in his second year at Tennessee after transferring from Virginia Tech after the 2020 season. Hooker was on the run for his life last season, as the Vols’ failed to protect him. Only seven teams in all of FBS gave up more sacks than Tennessee last season. If you’re keeping score at home, that means of 130 FBS schools, the Vols were 123 in protecting their most valuable asset.

The offense was not the Vols’ problem last season, that distinction belongs to a porous defense that ranked last in the pass in the SEC, giving up 273 yards a game. Tennessee returns six members of a secondary that had just 13 interceptions last season, for some perspective, that was just 0.8 per game, the best ball-hawking team in the country in 2021, Iowa, posted 1.8 interceptions per game.

Now, let’s get to the meat of the matter, which is this incredibly large point spread. When this line opened way back in the spring, the Vols were pegged to cover more than four converted touchdowns, as they opened at 30½-point favorites at most outfits. As the summer wore on and we now head into September, the Volunteers are now being asked to cover five converted touchdowns. For the #26 team in the nation, that might not seem too spendy when this market sees a dozen huge lines on the board in Week 1, but these Vols are of the quality of a Clemson, Michigan, or SEC mates Oklahoma. All who are also booked in glorified practices to start the season.

In a vacuum, this line would be a tough hill to climb, but one only has to take a quick look at the schedule to see that the Volunteers have a big game on deck next week at #17 Pitt. There is a lot of talk about the Vols feeling disrespected by not cracking the Top-25. Well, next week, they’ll have their chance to prove themselves and actually earn it instead of popping off at the mouth. That sets up a beautiful lookahead spot here.

Our Pick

Ball State +35½ +102 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.04)

Texas A&M -2 -107 over Arkansas
Iowa State -2½ -110 over Baylor
Buffalo +195 over Eastern Michigan
Texas Tech +7 -110 over Texas
Louisiana Tech +13 -110 over South Alabama
Oregon State +185 over USC