Monday, December 31, 2007

Outback Bowl Preview

Tennessee vs Wisconsin 11:00 AM ET
Tampa, FL
Line: Tenn -1.5, 58

Tennessee Volunteers (9-4, 6-2)
The Vols were left for dead after two bad SEC losses, but they scratched and clawed their way to the SEC East title after escaping the last two weeks of the regular season. After an embarrassing loss to Alabama, the Vols won 5 in a row to make it to Atlanta. They kept LSU close until late turnovers sunk the Vols SEC title hopes. Tennessee is making a return trip to the Outback Bowl where they lost to underdog Penn State last year
Best Win: vs Georgia 35-14
Worst Loss: @ Alabama 17-41
Record vs Bowl Teams: 5-4
Record vs BCS Top 25: 1-2
Schedule Strength: 19th
HC Fulmer Record in Bowls: 7-7

Wisconsin Badgers (9-3, 5-3)
The Badgers started off the year strong at 5-0 before a road loss to Illinois. They kept Ohio State close for 3 quarters in Columbus. Wisconsin was undefeated at home this season.
Best Win: vs Michigan 37-21
Worst Loss: @ Penn St 7-38
Record vs Bowl Teams: 3-3
Record vs BCS Top 25: 0-1
Schedule Strength: T-48th
HC Bielema Record in Bowls: 1-0

Tennessee Offense:
The Vols will have OC David Cutcliffe for this game, but you have to wonder how much of his focus has been on the game and how much is in Durham where his new job awaits. QB Erik Ainge will have his swan song and will be looking to increase his impressive passing totals (3,157 yards 29 TDs). Ainge has been well protected by the o-line which has allowed just 4 sacks on the year. The rushing attack is led by Arian Foster who has over 1,100 yards on the season. The Vols will be without their best receiver Lucas Taylor due to academics.

Wisconsin Defense:
The Badgers D has had its struggles this year. Wisconsin has allowed just 15 rushing TDs all year, but 10 of those have come in their 3 losses. The secondary is strongest part of this unit led by Shane Carter and Jake Ikegwuonu.

Wisconsin Offense:
RB PJ Hill is expected to play after being banged up at the end of the year. True freshman Zach Brown has shown a lot of promise and will spell Hill. QB Tyler Donovan is a threat to run or pass on any down.

Tennessee Defense:
This defense has been beleaguered all year allowing 59 points to Florida and 41 to Alabama. The Vols will be without two starters due to academics. The best player on D may be true freshman Eric Berry. LB Jerrod Mayo is a leading tackler and will be focused on stopping Hill.

Wisconsin backed into this game after Penn State lost their finale. The Vols showed a lot of resolve down the stretch to win the East and came up just short in the SECCG. I think the players will be motivated to win for Cutcliffe, but I wonder where his focus is.

Oddsmaker Notes:
Tennessee has lost 7 of their last 9 bowl games.

Watch for Wisconsin punt returner David Gilreath because he is on the nation's best. The Badgers have blocked two punts this year.

Looking at Wisconsin's season, they did not beat anyone they were better than at full strength. The Michigan win came when Chad Henne and Mike Hart were not a factor. Tennessee seems like the easy pick, but I would be concerned about Cutcliffe's focus.

Tennessee 31 Wisconsin 28
Tennessee Wins, Covers, Over

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