Fanpicks.com College Football Bowl Game Preview
Tennessee vs. Northwestern
Fanpicks.com is proud to bring you the Outback Bowl game preview featuring Tennessee against Northwestern. This is an simple prediction Tennessee will trounce Northwestern to take the game at 31-21. Play the best fantasy college football contests at Fanpicks.com.
Tennessee and Northwestern look to end breakout seasons on a high note when they meet in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Tennessee won its last five to reach eight victories for the first time since posting 10 with a win at the Outback Bowl in 2007. The Wildcats finished the regular season with five consecutive victories and go for a school-record 11th in Tampa where they lost 38-35 in overtime Jan. 1, 2010 at the Outback Bowl.
Both teams depend on their rushing attacks with multi-purpose quarterbacks and 1,000-yard sophomore running backs leading the way. Northwestern’s freshman signal caller Clayton Thorson has thrown for seven touchdowns and rushed for another five while Justin Jackson was fourth in the Big Ten in all-purpose yards with 1,491 – 1,344 on the ground with four scores. Jalen Hurd was fourth in the SEC with 1,158 yards rushing to go along with 11 scores for the Volunteers and quarterback Joshua Dobbs accounted for 24 touchdowns – 15 passing and nine rushing.
Special teams could become a major factor as Tennessee boasts six return touchdowns this season – three on punts and three on kickoffs. Evan Berry took three kickoffs back for scores and averaged a national-best 38.3 yards per return while Cameron Sutton (18.7 yards per return, leading the country) scored twice and Alvin Kamara once returning punts for the Volunteers. Tennessee led the nation in kick returns while ranking second behind Texas A&M on punts and Northwestern is 56th and fourth (2.13), respectively, defending them.
NORTHWESTERN Season Overview (10-2, 6-2 Big Ten): The Wildcats’ defense allowed an average of 14 points the last four games, led by sophomore linebacker Anthony Walker and senior defensive lineman Deonte Gibson. Walker, who was named to the Big Ten first team, has 113 tackles – 19.5 for loss – this season and Gibson boasts nine sacks, but All-Big Ten second team cornerback Nick VanHoose (three interceptions) is not expected to play due to a finger injury. Thorson has been intercepted seven times and completed only 51.6 percent of his passes with fullback Dan Vitale (33 catches, 355 yards) as his top target.
TENNESSEE Season Overview (8-4, 5-3 SEC): Dobbs has raised his production as a junior with 2,125 yards through the air, a near 60 percent completion rate and just five interceptions. Dobbs, who was picked off 12 times in his first two seasons while throwing fewer passes combined than he did during the 2015 campaign, has found seven different players for at least two scoring strikes, five of whom have 270 receiving yards or more. Josh Malone has 29 receptions for 388 yards to lead the way and Kamara is a key versatile performer for the Volunteers, scoring 10 times and accumulating 1,016 all-purpose yards.