At the beginning of the season, this game looked as if it would be a warmup game for the Volunteers as they entered the final stretch toward a possible division title and spot in the SEC Championship game. Now, they need to use this game to regain their confidence after a three-game losing streak.
Tennessee not only suffered the humiliation of losing to South Carolina — making any SEC title hopes far more unlikely — but it also took a hit to its program when running back Jalen Hurd announced he is leaving the team. Combine this with an injured Alvin Kamara and a continually struggling Volunteer run game, and Tennessee Tech could possibly put up a fight in Neyland.
Last week, John Kelly stepped up against South Carolina and showed promise. He finished with a career high 94 yards and an impressive 34-yard run in the fourth quarter. However, the Vols need to use this upcoming game to experiment and explore different options in the run game. Tennessee Tech should provide a good matchup for doing just that.
The Golden Eagles have yet to play an FBS team this season. Unfortunately for them, they are playing a Tennessee team seeking redemption.
The one positive for Tennessee Tech is its passing game. Senior quarterback Michael Birdsong has thrown for 1,967 yards and 12 touchdowns. However, the Golden Eagles’ defense has glaring problems — they’re allowing 28.3 points per game — and they give the ball away constantly.
The real problem for Tennessee Tech will be trying to gain significant yards on the ground. The depleted Tennessee defense performed well enough against the Gamecocks, holding them to just 325 total yards. Tennessee should have no problem shutting down the Golden Eagles’ offense, which is ranked 91st in the FCS in yards per game with just over 341.
As we’ve seen, Team 120 has played sloppy in every game so far this year. Will Saturday be any different? The Golden Eagles can only hope that it won’t be. After a three-game losing streak, the Vols will get over their sluggishness with a hot second quarter to re-energize the fans, as well as the team. Tennessee will cruise and win, 52-17.
Edited by Adam Milliken
Featured image by Hayley Pennesi, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics