Week one of this college football season was billed as the greatest opening weekend in college football history, and it lived up to the hype. There were upsets, impressive performances and chaos. Aside from Alabama and Texas A&M, teams from the SEC didn’t look so hot in week one. Which team should be on upset alert for week two?
To find that team, you don’t have to look far — the team is the Tennessee Volunteers.
This Saturday, “College Football’s Biggest Game Ever” will take place at Bristol Motor Speedway. The Vols will be playing the Virginia Tech Hokies in a game that the world will be watching on television, along with around 150,000 fans in the stadium.
In week one, both teams had less-than-stellar performances. The Vols struggled with Appalachian State. The Hokies struggled for much of the first half with FCS program Liberty, although they did pull away in the second half.
Two things to note about the Virginia Tech offense — it can run and utilize an up tempo pace. If this sounds familiar to Vol fans, it’s because that’s the same strategy that Appalachian State used to good effect against the Vols.
If Tennessee’s defense comes out and plays the same way it played against the Mountaineers, the Vols will continue to struggle against the run.
The Vols struggled at times to fill gaps and missed multiple tackles in week one. If they perform similarly in the Battle at Bristol, Virginia Tech will likely be able to run all over the field.
On the other side of the ball, the Hokies are a respectable team. In 2015, they were air-tight when defending the pass — they allowed only 190 passing yards per game, while only allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete about 49 percent of their passes.
This bodes poorly for Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs and the Vols’ passing game. Dobbs’ passing struggles continued against Appalachian State. He didn’t see open receivers down the field, misplaced passes that he did throw and failed to provide the Vols’ offense with a legitimate air-attack. This will likely be the case again against a Hokie defense that thrives on shutting down opponent’s passing game.
The difference in the game should be the battle between the Vols’ running game and the Hokies’ rush defense.
In 2015, Virginia Tech was uncharacteristically poor against the run for a Bud Foster defense, giving up 180.8 yards per game. However, if anything can be taken away from their week one game against Liberty, the rush defense looks improved from last season.
Another question mark will be the Tennessee offensive line. They looked atrocious in the Vols’ first game of the season. They allowed defenders to get into the backfield and blow up plays. If the unit does not make significant strides before Saturday, things could get dicey for the Vol offense.
The biggest question in this game will be whether or not each team has improved from their sub-par performances in week one. If Tennessee plays like it did against Appalachian State, the Vols will lose. If they improve, then the Vols should win. It should be an exciting game either way.
The Battle at Bristol takes place Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
Edited by Nathan Odom
Featured image by Hayley Pennesi