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History says: Bet on the Vols against Alabama

The Third Saturday in October used to be a revered fall football Saturday along the I-75 to I-59 corridor; a classic rivalry between two of college football’s bluebloods.

Dixie’s Great Football War has been a little lopsided since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa and Phillip Fulmer departed Knoxville, and it’s expected to be even more-so this year. Alabama opened as 34-point favorites over Tennessee, and the line was -34.5 Tuesday evening. The Crimson Tide appear to have their most dominant team since Saban arrived on campus, and UT will bring to town a team that is still looking for its first conference win, hasn’t scored a touchdown in the past 10 quarters, and will likely soon be searching for a new coach.

And, if history is our guide, you should place your money on Tennessee.

Seriously.

Since 2003, there have been 46 games with 34.5-point spreads. The favored team has covered the spread just 41 percent of the time in those games, going 19-27 against the spread.

And, just in case you’re curious, the same applies with the opening line of 34 points. There have been 43 games featuring 34-point spreads since 2003, and the favored team has covered the spread just 43 percent of the time.

That’s the good news for Tennessee. The bad news is that Tennessee could cover, and Alabama could still win 41-7. And in those 46 games since 2003, the underdog has won just once. The average margin of victory for the favored team has been 33 points.

Still, the historical percentages say money on the Vols is good money.

But before you take our word for it, remember that Tennessee is just 1-5 against the spread this season. (The lone cover for the Vols was the Sept. 16 loss at Florida, where the Gators were 6.5-point favorites and won 26-20 on a last-second touchdown pass.)

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