Should Tennessee’s Opponents Be Favored For The Rest Of The Season?

Posted on September 20, 2019 - Last Updated on March 9, 2020

Nine games remain on the Volunteers’ 2019 football schedule, and it’s not hard to imagine the Tennessee underdog status applying in most of them. All of them may be a stretch, but not that great of one.

Looking at the teams the Volunteers have yet to play creates a daunting path. Taking into account how Tennessee has performed so far increases that level of difficulty.

Why the Tennessee underdog status applies going forward

Simply put, the Volunteers haven’t played well in two of their three games. Their sole win, which came last week at home against Chattanooga, has to be discounted because of the level of competition.

In Tennessee’s two season-opening losses, the Volunteers weren’t blown out. The combined margin of victory for their first two opponents was 11 points. It’s more about who those opponents were.

Georgia State is not only a Sun Belt Conference team but far from one of the best teams in that conference. Last week the Panthers were dispatched by Western Michigan 57-10, and the road victory over the Volunteers to start out this season was only Georgia State’s third win since Aug. 30, 2018.

BYU is a more prominent program, but still not a Power 5 team. Going just 5-for-16 on third downs and losing the turnover battle in the game played a huge part in Tennessee’s double-overtime loss.

What makes these facts stand out is the rest of the Volunteers’ schedule. It includes the best teams in the SEC.

The rest of 2019 looks frightening for Tennessee

Tennessee’s remaining schedule, with teams’ rankings in the latest Associated Press poll and conference games in bold, is as follows:

  • At no. 9 Florida
  • No. 3 Georgia
  • Mississippi State
  • At No. 2 Alabama
  • South Carolina
  • UAB
  • At Kentucky
  • At Missouri
  • Vanderbilt

Tennessee does currently rank ahead of Vanderbilt in total offense, but many of those yards came last week against Chattanooga, and the Volunteers trail all other SEC teams in that category. Only Florida, Missouri and UAB rank ahead of the Volunteers in total defense among Tennessee’s remaining opponents, however.

While the statistics don’t necessarily favor the Volunteers’ remaining opponents that drastically, sportsbooks don’t necessarily operate on cold hard facts. Tennessee sports betting will operate on perception when it goes live.

How perception affects the odds at sportsbooks

When Tennessee lost its home and season opener to Georgia State, books reacted by downgrading the Volunteers. Although the BYU loss came in double-overtime and the Volunteers looked impressive last week, neither of those things is likely sufficient to undo the damage already done.

For example, Tennessee was +15000 on DraftKings to win the College Football Playoff prior to the season. At the same book on the same bet, the Volunteers are now +50000.

That perception could continue to cast Tennessee as an underdog for most of the rest of the season, even in its lone non-conference game against UAB and the season finale versus Vanderbilt. Much of how those lines will sit depends on how Tennessee fares in the games between then and now.

If the Volunteers can pull off the road upset of Florida this weekend, that could act as the counterbalance to their season-opening loss. Anything less than a spectacular performance probably keeps Tennessee right where it is as far as sportsbooks are concerned.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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