Tennessee football: Week 16 SEC and conference title picks by Dean Zulkofske

Dec 5, 2020; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; A fan dressed as big bird before the game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Florida Gators at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 5, 2020; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; A fan dressed as big bird before the game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Florida Gators at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports /

Here are Dean Zulkofske’s Week 16 Tennessee football Volunteers, SEC and conference championship picks.

What a wild ride the 2020 Tennessee football season has been. The Vols snapped a six-game losing streak and defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores 42-17 on the road last weekend to improve to 3-6 on the year.

Now, all focus has shifted to this weekend at home against the Texas A&M Aggies as the rest of college football prepares to crown the winner of each conference. Before you look at my picks for Tennessee football and the rest of this week, take a look at how I did last week and my overall record for the 2020 season.

Week 15 performance

Straight up: 4-2

Gambling picks: 6-6

  • 4-2 against the spread
  • 2-4 over/under

Overall performance for 2020

Straight up: 62-23

Gambling picks: 90-80

  • 45-40 against the spread
  • 45-40 over/under

That’s now back-to-back weeks where we dominated the spread but did equally as horrible on the over/under, resulting in a slew of dead even picks. Obviously here with Championship Saturday and the last week of the regular season in the SEC it’s going big or go home. Here are my picks for Championship Saturday as well as this week’s SEC, Top 25, and Tennessee football matchups.

UAB Blazers: 24  Marshall Thundering Herd: 31

C-USA Championship

Marshall -4.5; Over 41.5

Marshall was ranked in the Top 25 before losing their last outing in a stunning upset to Rice. The Thundering Herd was held scoreless in that loss two weeks ago, could their inactivity and loss of momentum hurt them in this title bout? We’ll say no and believe they’ll make up for it with their best game of football when it really matters.

MAC Championship

Buffalo -13.5; Over 67.5

The only name you’ll need to know for picking this game is Jaret Patterson. The MAC player of the year has rushed for over 1,000 yards and 18 touchdowns in just five games this season for the Bulls. He’s a big reason why Buffalo will win, cover, and score a bunch to become MAC champions on Friday.

808. Prediction. 17. 820. 20

Pac-12 Championship

Oregon +3.5; Under 63.5

The Pac-12 was late to the 2020 college football party and even though USC and Oregon have only played five games each, a power five conference title is up for grabs. One similarity between the two teams is they both play their opponents closely – you won’t find many resounding wins on either team’s record. With that being said, the Trojans enter this matchup undefeated, and the No. 13 team in the nation, they’ll end up winning in a close one.

Related Story. Five Aggies to watch for against Vols. light

30. 812. Prediction. 7. 882

Big Ten Championship

Ohio State -20.5; Under 56.5

Looking to capture their first Big Ten football championship since 2000, Northwestern has been stellar defensively in 2020. Could three touchdowns be a bit disrespectful to the No. 14 team in the country? Not so fast. Justin Fields hasn’t been as flawless as his first year with Ohio State, but he’ll have a memorable performance in his last game as a Buckeye.

Prediction. 36. 815. 30. 837

Big 12 Championship

Oklahoma -5.5; Over 58.5

For the last five seasons of Big 12 football, the Oklahoma Sooners have worn the crown at the end of it all. To make this pick as simple as possible, there’s not enough here to think this season will end any different. Spencer Rattler is still guilty of throwing the occasional interception, but he’s settled down since his rough start and should do more than enough to cover and put up points, as is Big 12 tradition.

31. 817. Prediction. 38. 841

Ole Miss -2.5; Under 78.5

How often do you see a total this close to 80 points? It’s so outrageous, you’d have no choice but to suspect former Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin was involved some way or another. Though Ed Orgeron’s Tigers pulled off the upset in Gainseville, Fla. as 23 point underdogs, Saturday night will belong to the Rebels. As for the total, stay away, that’s just ridiculous.

27. 893. Prediction. 30. 822

Missouri -0.5; Over 49.5

The Tiger’s failed to cover last week against the Georgia Bulldogs because of UGA’s defensive pressure and durability. Mizzou should have better luck against SEC’s other Bulldogs this week and look to Larry Rountree III to close his senior season strong. Take Missouri to win on the road in a high scoring game to close out both team’s regular seasons.

Related Story. Vols-Aggies: 10 keys to the game. light

31. 879. 27. 819. Prediction

ACC Championship

Notre Dame +10.5; Under 60.5

With Trevor Lawrence under center, the second matchup between these top-two ACC teams will go differently than the first. Will it go a full 11 points different? Not a chance. Notre Dame’s defense has been too good as of late to let this game get ridiculous. Take the Irish to cover and the under, but congrats to Clemson on what will be their sixth consecutive ACC title.

MWC Championship

San Jose State +6.5; Under 55.5

Both of these teams are pretty evenly matched. Boise State’s strength of schedule and only loss coming by way of the BYU Cougars gives them the nod here as favorites. However, San Jose State is the undefeated team here, and they found more success against the same Hawaii team that the Broncos defeated. Look for the scoreboard to be on the lower end of the scale and closer than the spread projects.

AAC Championship

Tulsa +14.5; Under 45.5

Undefeated No. 9 Cincinnati just might be the best non-power five team in the country. They’ll look to prove that against Tulsa on Friday. As great as the Bearcats are, Tulsa’s defense is one of the best in the nation and could make a two-touchdown spread hard to cover. Barring some wild statement win from Cincy, take the Golden Hurricane to cover and the under.

840. Final. 47. 829. 29

SEC Championship

Alabama -17.5; Over 73.5

After what some fans are calling the most embarrassing loss in UF’s football history last week to the LSU Tigers, what do the Gators have to play for here? They’re clearly the inferior team on paper, and with two losses it’s hard to believe an SEC Championship would be enough to clinch a spot in the CFP. Take Bama to cover in the SEC championship and the over.

Five Vols to watch for against Texas A&M. dark. Next

Prediction. 33. 873. 24. 839

Tennessee +13.5; Over 51.5

This Tennessee football team is all over the place. They’ve covered in their last two contests and we’ve been on the wrong side of their successes. That won’t be the case this week. Kellen Mond and the Aggies offense should be more than the Vols can handle but there’s no turning back now. Take UT to cover and the over in an SEC East vs West matinee.