20* Tennessee/NC State ESPNU Friday No-Brainer on Tennessee -3
Tennessee vs. North Carolina State,
08/31/2012 19:30 EDT,
Score: 35 - 21
Point Spread: -3/-115 Tennessee
After a 5-7 campaign in 2011 with arguably the toughest schedule in the entire country, the Tennessee Volunteers head into 2012 way underrated. That's because they return 18 starters and 48 lettermen from last year's squad.
The offense has nine starters back, led by junior QB Tyler Bray, who missed five starters last season due to injury. Bray still managed to complete 59.5 percent of his passes for 1,983 yards with 17 touchdowns and six interceptions in seven starts.
WR Justin Hunter had 17 receptions for 314 yards and two touchdowns in three starts last year before going out for the season with an injury. He returns healthy and will be the go-to guy after Da'Rick Rogers decided to leave the team. The offensive line returns five starters and 105 career starts from a unit that gave up only 18 sacks a year ago.
Defensively, the Vols held their own last season, giving up 22.6 points and 341 total yards per game against a brutal schedule. Nine starters return, and 2010's No. 2 tackler in senior MLB Herman Lathers is back after missing all of 2011 due to injury.
NC State is getting a lot of love after winning three straight games to close out last season to finish 8-5. But this team isn't nearly as talented as Tennessee with 13 starters and a mere 31 lettermen returning.
The Wolfpack lose three of their top four receivers, including TJ Graham (46 receptions, 757 yards, seven TD). Defensively, only six starters are back, and they lose three of their top players from 2011 in leading tackler Audie Cole (132 tackles, 13.5 for loss), Terrell Manning (82 tackles, 14 for loss, three INT) and Markus Kuhn (50 tackles, 9.5 for loss).
The Vols clearly have the better talent across the board, and on a neutral field Friday, they should roll against the overmatched Wolfpack. Tennessee is 7-2-1 ATS in its last 10 games as a favorite, and 4-1 ATS in its last 5 non-conference games. Bet the Volunteers Friday.