Game to be played at Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee
Nebraska and Tennessee once seemed poised to return to prominence in 2016, only to watch their seasons wrap up Dec. 30 at the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn. after league play took its toll. The 21st-ranked Cornhuskers reeled off seven straight wins before a 59-point beating at Ohio State served as one of two blowout losses during their 2-3 finish. The Volunteers opened 5-0, but a three-game skid in mid-October led to a lackluster 3-4 end to their season.
Quarterbacks Tommy Armstrong Jr. and Joshua Dobbs are set to play their final games after record-breaking careers, although the former may not be able to hold up his end of the deal. Armstrong owns the Cornhuskers’ all-time passing (8,871) and total-yardage (10,690) marks, but he reportedly suffered a setback in the left hamstring he injured late in a Nov. 12 win over Minnesota and appears unlikely to go. Dobbs, who holds the Volunteers’ single-season rushing mark for a quarterback, leads the SEC in touchdown passes (26), passer efficiency (152.6) and points responsible for (216).
While the Cornhuskers made significant strides in 2016 on defense (31st in scoring defense and 21st in total defense this year after 75th- and 64th-place finishes, respectively, in 2015), the Volunteers boast the most impactful player on that side of the ball. All-American junior defensive end Derek Barnett is tied for sixth in the nation with an SEC-high 12 sacks, while his 18 tackles for loss lead the league and rank 16th nationally. He is also tied with Vols legend Reggie White for the most sacks in school history (32).
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
LINE HISTORY: Oddsmakers opened with Tennessee as 3-point favorites, but that wasn’t enough for bettors and they forced the line up to 6.5 late in the week. The total opened at 60.5 and was quickly bet up a half-point to 61, before fading to 58 when this cheat sheet was created. Check out the complete line history here.
WEATHER REPORT: The forecast is calling for plenty of sunshine at Nissan Stadium in Nashville for this afternoon kick off. Temperatures will be in the high-40’s and winds heading east at 7 mph.
Nebraska – QB Ryker Fyfe (probable, wrist), RB Terrell Newby (probable, knee), TE Matt Snyder (questionable, elbow), WR Alonzo Moore (questionable, undisclosed), RB Tre Bryant (questionable, hamstring), QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. (doubtful, hamstring), WR Jordan Westerkamp (out, knee), S Nate Gerry (out, eligibility), CB Boaz Joseph (out, suspension)
Tennessee – DL Austin Smith (questionable, shoulder), OL Dylan Wiesman (questionable, ankle), OL Chance Hall (out, undisclosed), OL Venzell Boulware (out, academics)
ABOUT NEBRASKA (9-3 SU, 6-4-2 ATS, 3-9 OU): With Armstrong trending in the wrong direction, coach Mike Riley is working under the belief that fellow senior Ryker Fyfe will make his third career start; the former walk-on threw for 220 yards and a score in a win against Maryland in his only previous 2016 start on Nov. 19. Leading receiver Jordan Westerkamp suffered a torn meniscus in practice on Dec. 14 and has been ruled out, leaving senior Brandon Reilly (17 catches for 314 yards) to start in his place in the slot. Safety Nate Gerry needs one interception to match Dana Stephenson’s school career mark of 14 – the same number of tackles he requires to tie Mike Brown’s program record for career tackles by a defensive back (287).
ABOUT TENNESSEE (8-4 SU, 5-7 ATS, 8-4 OU): The Volunteers averaged 50.2 points over their final four games (3-1) and Dobbs had a hand in 15 of the 27 touchdowns scored while piling up 1,362 total yards (including 393 yards on the ground) over that same span. Junior Josh Malone is easily the team’s biggest offensive threat after Dobbs, ranking second in the conference with 10 receiving touchdowns and 18.9 yards per catch. Barnett accumulated all 12 of his sacks during conference play and became the first Tennessee defensive lineman to earn first-team all-conference coaches’ honors since Robert Ayers in 2008, but he is one of the few bright spots for a unit that ended the regular season ranked 109th in FBS in total defense and 73rd in scoring defense.
* Cornhuskers are 10-1 ATS in their last 11 games on grass.
* Volunteers are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games after allowing more than 280 yards passing in their previous game.
* Over is 5-1 in Cornhuskers last 6 games on grass.
* Over is 4-0 in Volunteers last 4 bowl games.
For a full list of hot and cold trends click here.
COVERS CONSENSUS: 55 percent of Covers users are backing the favorite Tennessee Volunteers. As for the total, 62 percent of the wagers are on the Over. Click here for in depth consensus data.