FAYETTEVILLE, AR - NOVEMBER 12: Quarterback Justin Worley #14 of the Tennessee Volunteers throws a pass under pressure from Byran Jones #54 of the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Stadium Stadium on November 12, 2011 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Razorbacks defeated the Volunteers 49 to 7. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
The Tennessee Volunteers, coming off rare back-to-back losing seasons, take on the North Carolina State Wolf Pack Friday night on a neutral field at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta (7:30 pm Eastern, ESPNU).
Many sportsbooks opened this game with Tennessee at -3.5 or -4, with an 'over/under' of 52.5 or 53. But as of Friday, most college football betting outlets were listing the Vols at -3, and the total at 52, according to the matchup report at Odds Shark.
NC State has been a tough underdog, however, going 10-3-1 ATS in 14 recent games in that role and wagering action has been even so far, according to one shop.
"It's almost 50/50 on this game, but we have only taken about one third of the action here as we have seen on the the Boise State/Michigan State," said Kevin Bradley of Bovada. "We expect action to pick up later on the Vols-NC State game."
The Volunteers return an SEC-high 19 starters from a team that went 5-7 last year, 1-7 in SEC play and missed a bowl. Ten starters are back on offense, including junior QB Tyler Bray (17/6 TD/INT last year) and the entire offensive line, and nine are back on defense, including the entire back eight.
So the Vols have their minds squarely set on returning to a bowl in their third season under Coach Dooley.
NC State, meanwhile, gets 13 starters back this season from a team that went 8-5 last year, 4-4 in the ACC and beat Louisville in a bowl game. Seven starters return on offense, led by senior QB Mike Glennon (31/12 TD/INT last season) and four along the O line, and six are back on defense.
Some think this could be Coach O'Brien's best team in his six seasons in Raleigh.
As far as the series between these teams goes, the Vols and the Pack, as hard as this is to believe about two schools from bordering states, haven't met on the field of battle since 1939.
In early betting action on Friday's game play on the side was split almost right down the middle, while action on the total leaned about 60/40 toward the 'under.'
Free NCAA Football Pick: NC State looks like it's a little better than Tennessee at running the ball, and a little better at stopping the run. We like their scrappiness as a dog as well, so we'll take the points and the Wolf Pack.