Tennessee is hoping to end the 2021 season on an up note as it faces Purdue in the TransPerfect Music City Bowl on Thursday at 3 p.m. ET.

Tennessee can leave a lasting impression on poll voters as it works toward getting into the Top 25 to start the 2022 season.

The 7-5 Vols are the favorite over the 8-4 Boilermakers. Here are 5 reasons why the oddsmakers will be correct and the Vols will have to make some room in the trophy case.

1. Home-field advantage

Okay, so Nashville isn’t Knoxville, and Nissan Stadium isn’t Neyland Stadium. But it’ll be tough to tell the difference on Thursday afternoon.

Whenever the Vols play in Nashville, be it a neutral-site affair to start the season or their matchup with Vanderbilt every 2 years, there is always a lot more orange and white in the stands than the colors of their opponents.

West Lafayette is about a 5 1/2-hour drive from Nashville, and Boilermakers fans might already be in basketball mode. Thousands of Tennessee fans are within a 3 wood from the bowl site, with many more an easy drive away.

2. Opt-outs hurt Purdue more than Tennessee

Tennessee senior defensive back Alontae Taylor decided not to play in the Music City Bowl to prepare for the NFL Draft. The Vols will certainly miss his presence.

But while Taylor is likely a final-day guy in the Draft, Purdue will be without not 1 but 2 players who could hear their names called in the first 2 rounds.

Like Taylor, wide receiver David Bell and defensive end George Karlaftis opted out of the bowl game. Bell caught 93 passes for 1,286 yards and 6 scores and was an AP All-American. Karlaftis had 4.5 sacks and a team-leading 10 tackles for loss and was named a 3rd-team All-American.

Purdue will be hard-pressed to find replacements at their levels.

3. Break will rejuvenate Vols

Both the Vols and the Boilermakers have had a few weeks off, but the extended break should really do wonders for Tennessee.

The Vols’ roster isn’t at full scholarship strength, and they had issues with depth throughout the season. But look no further than the Kentucky game on Nov. 6. That contest came after Tennessee’s bye week, and despite having their defense on the field for more than 45 minutes, the Vols prevailed, 45-42. It was their best win of the season and one of the best games they played all year.

With nearly 5 weeks off the field, the Vols will be rested and ready for whatever the Boilermakers will throw at them.

4. The Hendon Hooker effect

What a year it was for the Tennessee quarterback: 2,567 passing yards with 26 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. plus 561 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns. Hooker wasn’t the starter at the beginning of the season, but he proved to be more than capable of leading the Vols.

Hooker will be 1 of the 2 best quarterbacks the Boilermakers defense will have faced this year. The other was Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, who threw for 361 yards and 5 touchdowns against Purdue. Don’t be surprised if Hooker puts up similar stats. Also, Stroud rushed for -1 yards in that game. Hooker has rushed for more than 40 yards in 7 games this year.

5. Rushing emphasis for Vols

Purdue’s rushing defense is average, ranked 60th in the nation while giving up 147 yards per game. Tennessee’s rushing offense is very good, ranked 19th in the nation in picking up 212 yards per game.

The Vols will be without 3rd-leading rusher Tiyon Evans, who hit the transfer portal. But Evans wasn’t a dealbreaker for the Tennessee running game. Due mostly to injury, Evans played in only 7 games.

Hooker and running backs Jabari Small, Jaylen Wright and Len’Neth Whitehead make up a formidable group on the ground. They’ll be tough for Purdue to stop.