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Tennessee isn’t the favorite to win the SEC, but the Vols are a great value for long-term gamblers

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As teams open spring practice, the consensus is pretty clear among national media, college football analysts and even oddsmakers: Georgia (+185) is a strong favorite to win the SEC this season. However, there’s plenty of competition readying itself for 2024. Tennessee should be considered one of those teams that have a shot to top the Bulldogs and, quite possibly, the best “value” bet in the conference. 

Alabama (+950) was supposed to be Georgia’s main competition until coach Nick Saban retired. Well, since that happened earlier this year, Alabama’s odds to win an SEC title have dropped while Georgia’s odds understandably increased.

With a coaching transition to Kalen Deboer and mass losses in the transfer portal, the Crimson Tide is suddenly a pretty scary bet to win the SEC for the first time in almost two decades, since Saban took over Bama in 2007. In fact, there are two other schools that are receiving better odds than DeBoer’s team: Texas (+300) and Ole Miss (+650). Both have one things in common: strong quarterback play.

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Longhorn quarterback Quinn Ewers is looking for playmakers, two of which may be former Alabama players: receiver Isaiah Bond and tight end Amari Niblack. As for Ole Miss, the Rebels’ main goal in spring practice is creating chemistry among a team of transfers, including former Texas A&M defensive tackle Walter Nolan. However, Ole Miss certainly has the quarterback that most teams would gladly trade for: Jason Dart.

LSU (+950) has the same odds as Bama to win the SEC championship, but the Tigers have to find a replacement for Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jayden Daniels. Garrett Nussmeier is set to be the starter this season, but he could use a No. 1 receiver after the Tigers’ recent losses at that position. That leads us to Tennessee.

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The Vols (+1100) seem to be an incredible value if you believe redshirt freshman quarterback Nico Iamaleava will elevate the position after former Vol Joe Milton struggled at times last season. Just like any of the aforementioned teams, the Vols have questions to be answered in spring practice, most notably the Vols secondary, which was never very good last season and lost arguably its best player, Kamal Hadden, from last year’s team.

Looking for reasons to cash in on the Vols? Here you go:

1. Iamaleava, based on all accounts, will live up to the hype. There hasn’t even been a whisper otherwise so it’s reasonable to think the chosen one can at least be an All-SEC level performer.

2. The Vols offensive line could be elite this season thanks to returning players, led by center Cooper Mays. Left guard is the most significant concern up front on offense. If the Vols can figure out that position, watch out.

3. Tennessee’s skill-position players should also be a strength, led by running back Dylan Sampson and receiver Bru McCoy, as long as he is healthy, which he is expected to be.

4. The Vols should be stout and disruptive on the defensive front. EDGE rusher James Pearce is the star, but watch out for linebacker Arion Carter, who wasn’t able to play at his best last season due to lingering injuries.

Tennessee certainly has questions to answer in spring practice, just like any other team. However, to think that the Vols are almost a long shot to win the SEC is a bit odd. Looking for an investment that just might make Christmas a bit more joyful this season? The Vols may be the best option other than Santa Claus.

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