Tennessee and Purdue, two upstart offensive programs, meet in Nashville as they vie for the Music City Bowl trophy. The Vols turned around quickly under first-year head coach Josh Heupel, reaching 7-5 thanks to a well-placed win over then-No. 18 Kentucky.
Purdue played the role of a giant killer after beating then No. 15 Iowa and No. 10 Michigan State — both ranked in the top five at the time — to derail potential playoff cases. The Boilermakers won four of their last five games — the lone loss came to No. 6 Ohio State — by a combined 71 points to reach eight wins for the first time since 2007. A win would send Purdue to nine wins for the first time since former coach Joe Tiller’s team in 2004.
These two teams have only played once, with Purdue beating Tennessee 27-22 in 1979. Purdue will be without star receiver David Bell and defensive end George Karlaftis, both of whom declared for the 2022 NFL Draft. Tennessee cornerback Alontae Taylor will sit out the game while getting healthy before the NFL Draft.
Tennessee vs. Purdue: Need to know
Aerial attacks: Both Purdue and Tennessee boast one of the most underrated signal-callers in the nation. UT’s Hendon Hooker threw for 2,567 yards and 26 touchdowns after taking over the starting job from Joe Milton. Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell completed 73.5% of his passes for 3,178 yards, 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions in a breakout season. Luckily, both O’Connell and Hooker will return for another year in 2022.
Strength on strength: While the Vols are known for their deep passing shots, they have actually been surprisingly consistent running the ball. Tennessee ranks No. 4 nationally in rushing success rate, good enough for 4.9 yards per carry and four running backs at 5.2 yards per carry or better. However, Purdue has also ranked No. 24 in defensive rushing success rate and allowed 4.2 yards per carry. The trenches could make all the difference.
Boom or Bust: When Purdue shows up, it’s a surprising force in the college football world. The Boilermakers beat Iowa and Michigan State by a combined 30 points over the course of a month, but then lost by 17 against a struggling Wisconsin and by a touchdown to Minnesota. The gap between expected performance and actual performance has been full of wild swings, whereas Tennessee has surprisingly been the more consistent team. If bad Purdue shows up, the Boilermakers could quickly crater.
How to watch Music City Bowl live
Game: Music City Bowl
Date: Thursday, Dec. 30 | Time: 3 p.m. ET
Location: Nissan Stadium — Nashville, Tennessee
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Music City Bowl prediction, picks
Featured Game | Purdue Boilermakers vs. Tennessee Volunteers
Purdue has relied on star playmakers Bell and Karlaftis to play major roles on each side of the ball. With both expected not to play, the consistency and depth of the Tennessee roster will be put on full display. In a game with so many potential points, a 4.5-point line is perfectly manageable. Prediction: Tennessee (-4.5)
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