Kentucky vs. Tennessee NCAAF Week 9 Best Bets: Beware of the Wildcats

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The Tennessee Volunteers don’t belong in Saturday’s college football picks, but the Kentucky Wildcats and the under both look good.

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Kentucky Wildcats vs. Tennessee Volunteers

Saturday, October 29, 2022 – 07:00 PM EDT at Neyland Stadium

Some college football picks are easier than others. After the Tennessee Volunteers (7-0 SU, 6-1 ATS) pulled off that 52-49 win over Alabama in Week 7 as 9.5-point home dogs, you knew bettors would start going ham on the Vols, pushing all the betting value to the other side.

It didn’t burn Tennessee supporters last week – although it was very, very close. The Volunteers beat UT-Martin 65-24 as 38.5-point home faves, but that was an FCS opponent.

This Saturday, the Kentucky Wildcats (5-2 SU and ATS) are coming to town, and they’re the obvious sharp pick as 13-point road dogs on the NCAAF odds board at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review).

But what if we told you the under is even tastier? Just looking at that 63.5-point total at Bovada (visit our Bovada Review) is enough to make our mouths water here at the ranch. And the consensus reports at press time agree, with 93% of early bettors on Kentucky and the full 100% on the Under. Sweet sassy molassey.

Are the Volunteers Really That Good?

It wasn’t exactly a fluke that they beat Alabama. The Tide definitely helped them out with some uncharacteristically sloppy play, but overall, Tennessee has played at a high level this year. They were No. 6 on the F+ Ratings at Football Outsiders heading into Week 7, and presumably won’t move much for Week 8 after playing an FCS team.

Don’t be fooled, though: Tennessee doesn’t belong in the same conversation as Georgia and Alabama in the SEC. The Vols can compete with either of those teams on offense, but the other side of the ball is where things get sketchy – as you might expect from a team coached by Josh Heupel, the former star quarterback and 2000 AP Player of the Year at Oklahoma.

Heupel has gotten tremendous results from QB Hendon Hooker (18 TD passes, 1 INT) since taking over at Rocky Top last year. But his high-tempo offense comes at a cost: Tennessee’s defense spends a lot of time on the field and gets worn down the longer the game goes on.

You could see it in Week 4 when the Vols allowed Florida to pull off the matador cover in their 38-33 loss to Tennessee (-11.5 at home). You could even see it last week against UT-Martin, who had a potential ATS-winning touchdown wiped off the board in the dying moments. Maybe we’ll get some more of the same this Saturday.

Are the Wildcats for Real?

Heck yes. You may recall our Week 7 betting preview where we went with Kentucky as 7-point home dogs for their matchup with Mississippi State. That line got bet down to +3.5 by game time, and the ‘Cats prevailed 27-17.

It wasn’t Kentucky’s first big upset this year. They also rolled the Florida Gators 26-16 back in Week 2 as 6-point road dogs, and they nearly did the same to Ole Miss (-6.5 at home) in Week 5 before losing 22-19.

We could go on about Kentucky and their quality defense under head coach Mark Stoops. In fact, we will in a moment. But as far as this spread is concerned, both FiveThirtyEight and Jeff Sagarin project Tennessee to win Saturday’s contest by about 12 points, and they’re being a bit generous compared to some of the other models we’re looking at – enough to make the ‘Cats worth the standard one unit at +13.

Isn’t Tennessee’s Offense Better Than Kentucky’s Defense?

Yes, and we see where you’re going with this: Tennessee has the Over at 5-2 through seven games with their offense-heavy splits. But the Wildcats (Under 6-1) are like their mirror image, thriving on defense while doing just enough on offense to get by.

Put these two teams on the same field, and Sagarin projects them to score 56 points combined this Saturday. That’s more than seven points below their total at press time. And there’s even a threat of light rain in the forecast for Knoxville, although it might hold off until just after they’re done playing.

Ultimately, we’re going to recommend both sides of this underdog-under scenario. I know, big surprise, right? These are the classic old-school handicapping plays, but the analytics bear them out in this particular matchup. It’s up to you whether you want to parlay them or not.

Bet them as you see fit, and may the prolate spheroid be with you.

NCAAF Pick: Under 63.5 (-110) at Bovada

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Under 63.5 (-110)
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NCAAF Pick: Kentucky +13 (-115) at BetOnline

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Kentucky +13 (-115)
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.