Tennessee football vs. Purdue in Music City Bowl: Score prediction, scouting report

·3 min read

Tennessee will face an explosive offense on a recent hot streak in the TransPerfect Music City Bowl.

Purdue sounds a lot like the Vols, but they’re not quite the same.

UT (7-5) will face Purdue (8-4) at Nissan Stadium in Nashville on Dec. 30 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN) in a clash of SEC and Big Ten teams that play an exciting style.

It will be their second meeting ever. UT lost to No. 12 Purdue 27-22 in the Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston in 1979.

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Here’s what you need to know about the Vols’ bowl opponent to cap coach Josh Heupel’s first season.

Purdue touts a top-10 air attack

Both teams play an entertaining brand of offense, but there’s a notable difference. UT is balanced while the Boilermakers air it out.

UT ranks ninth in FBS in scoring offense (38.8 points per game) and 16th (459 yards per game) in total offense. The Vols average 212 yards rushing and 247 yards passing per game.

Purdue quarterback Aidan O'Connell (16) throws a pass against Wisconsin during the first half of an NCAA college football game in West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Purdue quarterback Aidan O'Connell (16) throws a pass against Wisconsin during the first half of an NCAA college football game in West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Purdue ranks 74th in scoring offense (27.5 ppg) and 51st in total offense (423.4 ypg), which doesn’t raise eyebrows. But the Boilermakers are ninth in passing offense (340.2 ypg) and 127th in rushing offense (83.3 ypg) among 130 FBS teams.

Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell has completed 73.5% of his passes for 3,177 yards, 23 TDs and eight interceptions.

And David Bell is a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, given to college football’s best wide receiver. He has 93 receptions for 1,286 yards and six TDs. He leads seven Purdue players with at least 20 catches.

Purdue suffered epic rout in last Music City Bowl trip

If history matters, the Vols will like traveling to Nashville more than Purdue.

This will be UT’s third appearance in the Music City Bowl. The Vols lost 30-27 in double overtime to North Carolina in the 2010 Music City Bowl under former coach Derek Dooley. And they beat Nebraska 38-24 in the 2016 Music City Bowl under Butch Jones.

Purdue, however, lost 63-14 to Auburn in the 2018 Music City Bowl in Brohm’s second season. The Boilermakers trailed 56-7 at halftime, and the losing margin was easily the largest in Music City Bowl history.

Boilermakers beat two ranked teams

UT won three of its final four games, including a notable victory over No. 20 Kentucky, to finish strong in Heupel’s first regular season.

Purdue went 5-2 in its final seven games, including a 40-29 win over No. 10 Michigan State and 24-7 win over No. 16 Iowa. O’Connell passed for 536 yards against Michigan State and 375 yards against Iowa.

Score prediction

Tennessee 45, Purdue 38: Bowl games are often shootouts, and this will fit the bill. Purdue’s passing game will test UT’s secondary, especially with cornerback Alontae Taylor not playing while he recovers from a foot injury and preps for NFL Draft workouts.

But the Vols’ pass rush should get to O’Connell enough to keep the air attack in check. Hendon Hooker must play well for UT, but he’ll be supported by a solid ground game. The Vols have scored exactly 45 points in three of their past seven games, so perhaps they’ll do it again. This will be a fun bowl to watch.

Reach Adam Sparks at adam.sparks@knoxnews.com and on Twitter @AdamSparks.

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Tennessee football vs. Purdue in Music City Bowl: Score prediction

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