The Tennessee Volunteers ended 15 years of pent-up misery early Saturday evening and shook up the college football world at the same time.
Tennessee kicker Chase McGrath gets the hero’s treatment after his 40-yard field goal as time expired lifted the Volunteers to a 52-49 victory over Alabama at Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium. With the victory, the Vols saw their odds for winning the national championship shorten significantly. (Image: Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics)
The Vols 52-49 triumph over Alabama, which entered the game as one of the favorites for the national title, was the biggest victory since the program won its last national title in 1998.
The Vols jumped out to a quick 21-7 first quarter lead, only to see the Crimson Tide take the lead twice in the second half, including on a defensive touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. The Volunteers scored the last 10 points, though, including a game-winning, 40-yard field goal by Chase McGrath at the gun to give Tennessee their first victory over their SEC rivals since 2006.
The win moved Tennessee to 6-0 on the season.
This year’s only halfway through, and at least two more ranked teams appear on the rest of the docket. Coach Josh Heupel told reporters after the win that there’s still a lot of season left. Still, he acknowledged the milestone aspect of Saturday’s performance.
I think it just speaks to the mentality, the growth, and the progress of the individuals inside of our locker room and collectively as a team,” Heupel said. “…The growth inside of our program from the time we got here, the ability to be resilient; it was not pretty in the second half, there were a lot of things that we did not do at the level that we are capable of, but the kids continued to reset and go play and believe and ultimately find a way when it ticks zero to be on the right side of the scoreboard.”
Already, four of those wins have come against teams ranked in the Associated Press poll. The last time the school did that in a season was in 1998.
Vols Odds Shorten After Big Win
Few, if any, considered the Volunteers a title contender at the beginning of the season. The once-proud program has not posted a 10-win season since 2007, and it last played in a major bowl in the 2005 Cotton Bowl.
Coming off a 7-6 record in Heupel’s first season, most major sportsbooks made UT a +10000, or 100-1, shot at winning a title, according to Oddstrader. Caesars Sportsbook even started them at +15000. But as the wins piled up, the odds began to shrink, and after Saturday’s win, Tennessee’s odds took their biggest jump yet.
DraftKings dropped them from +5000 after last weekend to +1600 as of Sunday. BetMGM, Caesars, and PointsBet slashed them from +4000 to +1800.
FanDuel and the Westgate SuperBook offer the best price right now at +2000, down from +4000 and +5000, respectively.
The Vols’ odds aren’t the only ones dropping sharply. Fifth-year senior quarterback Hendon Hooker started as a +5000 longshot for the Heisman Trophy. Like his team, his odds started getting lower with each victory.
On Saturday, he threw for a career-high 385 yards on 21-of-30 passing and matched a career-best five touchdown passes. Because of that performance, Hooker now commands +600 odds at BetMGM, his best price among sportsbooks.
Hooker also now is the consensus second choice by sportsbooks, who still consider Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud the favorite. Most operators are offering even-money odds or close to it.
Why Tennessee’s Odds Aren’t Lower
While Tennessee’s odds have dropped, they’re still not among the lowest in college football. In fact, four other teams have shorter odds than the Volunteers, and Michigan’s odds are similar at most sportsbooks.
Ohio State is considered the consensus favorite, with no sportsbook offering more than +180 (Caesars and DraftKings) on the Big Ten leaders. Right behind them is Georgia. The defending champions are +200 at BetMGM, their best odds.
Tennessee’s odds are still much longer than other contenders because they have games left against Kentucky and Georgia. They play at Georgia on Nov. 5. That game will likely be for the SEC East Division and a spot in the Dec. 3 SEC Championship, where they may face Alabama again. That’s still a tough task to accomplish.
The Georgia game looms large. A win there, and UT controls its destiny to the SEC title game. Given the conference’s strength, it likely gets them in the College Football Playoff even if they lose that.
Alabama, whose odds had been similar to Georgia’s and Ohio State’s before Saturday, saw their odds jump to +450 at BetMGM, FanDuel, DraftKings, bet365, and PointsBet. Also ahead of the Vols is Clemson. The ACC favorites are available at Caesars for +1200.
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