Tennessee vs. Ole Miss Prediction, Pick Against the Spread, and Latest Odds
Spread: Ole Miss -3
Game Time: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Where to Watch: SECN
Tennessee Volunteers vs. Ole Miss Rebels - Out of the Tunnel
Quietly and consistently, Tennessee has put together a strong October. And they've done it with an overwhelming offense.
Look at the total domination in those games before we brush it off as two wins over two lower-tier SEC teams. And look at how the Vols have completely bought into what first-year coach Josh Heupel is selling.
Heupel wants to go fast, run as many plays as possible, and wear out a defense. He wants to force a tired defense into bad mistakes, which leads to explosion plays, which leads to points. And that leads to wins over Missouri and South Carolina by a combined 107-44 the last two weeks. The Vols ran 150 plays in those two games and had 1,155 yards.
If this sounds familiar, it should. Look on the other sideline Saturday in Neyland Stadium and see Ole Miss. It's a replica of what Heupel is doing at Tennessee – with better players.
This may or may not be Lane Kiffin's last year at Ole Miss – hello, LSU – but he has completely changed the Rebels in less than two seasons. And he's done it with a tempo offense and the bold idea that the last team with the ball wins.
Even if it means in the final seconds, while you're desperately trying to hold onto a lead, you fold your hands in prayer, close your eyes and hope for the best. Kiffin found himself in the exact position last week while the Rebels were trying to salt away a win over Arkansas.
When Tennessee Has The Ball
Once Tennessee found a quarterback, the offense – and its dangerous ability – dramatically changed.
Heupel's system has been the perfect fit for Hendon Hooker, the Virginia Tech transfer who lost out on the starting job to Michigan transfer Joe Milton to begin the season. But Milton's inability to move in the pocket and throw accurately (and an injury) finally got Hooker on the field.
Hooker's numbers are way up from his first three years at VT, where he never really found his way. He has 13 touchdowns and only one interception and has completed 70 percent of his passes.
Heupel has developed dynamic players in the offense in Tail Back Tryon Evans and Wide Reciever Velus Jones Jr., two guys who have become emerging stars in the SEC. When he took the job, Heupel said that he would identify guys who could make plays and feature them.
Evans is averaging 6.7 yards per carry and has six touchdowns. Jones is averaging 15.5 yards per catch and has three touchdowns. As much as Hooker's, their play has brought stability and consistency to the unit – the same offense that had trouble stringing together first downs in 2020.
The battle within the game: the Tennessee offense at home against an Ole Miss defense that in two games against opponents with a pulse (Alabama and Arkansas) has given up 93 points and 1,127 yards – including a whopping 560 yards rushing.
When Ole Miss Has The Ball
Quarterback Matt Corral said before the season; his goal was to protect the football and avoid careless turnovers.
Not only has Corral not thrown an interception this season (146 attempts), he's completing 69.2 percent of his passes and is averaging 10.3 yards per attempt. As a result, the ball is going downfield, and the offense is more dangerous than ever.
Despite the narrative of Kiffin's offenses, this Ole Miss unit relies more on the power run game. The better Ole Miss runs the ball, the more dangerous Corral and the passing game become.
It's running back by committee for the Rebels, with Henry Parrish Jr., Snoop Conner, and Jerrion Ealy combining for 793 yards and nine touchdowns and mainly running off the zone-read option. The zone read also has Corral involved in the run game, and he's not only a willing runner but a punishing one at times.
He has rushed for 255 yards and is the offense's most consistent short-yardage option with eight rush touchdowns. The zone read makes Corral more dangerous with run-pass option throws. He's more comfortable in his second season in the offense and making better run-pass decisions.
Tennessee is 6th in the SEC in scoring defense (21.5 ppg.), but that number jumps to 27.3 in conference games. The problem: they can't get off the field, allowing opponents to convert 50 percent of third-down conversions in conference games.
Tennessee vs. Ole Miss Prediction - The Bottom Line
There will be more games this season when Kiffin's looking for divine intervention, including this weekend. The Vols are playing well, and Neyland Stadium should be 100,000 strong with Kiffin's arrival. The former Vols coach (2009) always drives a crowd.
Tennessee is playing well enough to earn a big upset this season, despite the offseason turnover of the roster (more than 40 new players). So why not right here, with a hot team and a juiced crowd?
The score: Tennessee 38-35
Tennessee vs. Ole Miss Pick: Tenessee +3 (-110)