Things happen fast for Josh Heupel.
The former UCF head coach was hired to rebuild the Volunteers after an underwhelming 3-7 season. The Vols lost seven of their final eight games in 2020, and 25 players hit the transfer portal.
Heupel knew that he had to reshape the roster, and he started by targeting Joe Milton to compete for the QB position. Much like Heupel, Milton enters the year with something to prove after a challenging season at Michigan. He will have to fight off Hokie transfer Hendon Hooker and Harrison Bailey to earn the keys to Heupel's high-paced offense.
Heupel's style will be a much-needed injection of energy. The Vols offense finished last season outside of the Top 100 in scoring and 94th in yards per play. At Central Florida, Heupel was the architect of the fastest-paced offense in the nation, reeling off almost 19 more plays per game than the team he inherited. The Vols lost some talent in the backfield, but the wide receiver room should give the Vols' new quarterback plenty of weapons. Velus Jones Jr. and Miss St. transfer JaVonta Payton provide an excellent combination of speed and experience to allow Heupel to creatively unleash the big-play potential his exciting brand of football delivers.
Some serious speed this morning from #Vols WR Velus Jones Jr., as he had to slow down a bit to catch a bomb from roommate Hendon Hooker.
More coming soon from myself and @mattraySI on Tennessee’s first practice in Week 2 of fall camp. pic.twitter.com/UK4tXEeBna
— Jake Nichols (@jnichols_2121) August 9, 2021
Tennessee fans' faith will be put to the test on the other side of the ball. Heupel lost several key players in the linebacking corp and will rely heavily on a secondary that gained valuable experience in 2020. Five defensive backs return from a unit that ranked 112th in the country in EPA per pass. The anticipated improvement on the backend will be a determining factor in how quickly Heupel can get the Vols back to bowl eligibility.
Should you bet on a winning season in Tennessee?
The Tennessee Volunteers' win total is currently at six games. I believe six wins is fair for Heupel's first season, and adding three wins in the toughest conference in college football is enough reason to be excited. Getting that seventh win will be challenging.
The Vols have four winnable non-conference games, including the opener against Bowling Green. The schedule sets Heupel up for success and allows his offense to get in sync with their new QB before heading into conference play. South Carolina and Vanderbilt are also winnable games and should get them to six wins. In order to win a wager at over six wins, Tennessee will have to steal a road game at Missouri or Kentucky. Missouri might be their best opportunity. It's a Missouri team they handled 35-12 last season, but it's also the second leg of back-to-back road games following a trip to Florida.
Bet on Heupel's offense
Flipping the Vols' record from 3-7 to 7-5 while integrating a new QB and replacing a ton of production is a tall task for anyone. Considering that Heupel has to do it in the SEC is enough reason for me to find a different way to win with Tennessee. I am not betting either over or under six wins, as a 6-6 season is in reach with the soft non-conference schedule. The best approach to betting the Vols is on a game-by-game basis and picking the spots where you see the value.
Tennessee is a -33 favorite in the opener versus Bowling Green, with a total of 57.5. I am cautious laying such a big number considering Tennessee has covered at home only 35.3% of the time over the past five seasons. They have been much more profitable on the road, covering 50% of the time. I would rather bet the game goes over the total at 57.5. I'm betting the Josh Heupel era gets ushered in with plenty of points while not tying the outcome of my bet to the Tennessee defense having a strong performance. Betting the team total for Tennessee could be an option as well. You can bet the over 57.5 at BetMGM and enjoy an exciting, fast-paced game filled with plenty of scoring.
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