Butch Jones and the Tennessee Volunteers are set to take on their last cupcake team of the schedule before facing Georgia and Alabama in three weeks. UMass is winless heading into Saturday, but they have playmakers that could cause trouble for the Vols on both sides of the ball. Here are five matchups to watch for as Tennessee meets the Minutemen in Neyland at noon on Saturday.
No. 1: Quentin Dormady vs. the UMass secondary
Dormady has been underwhelming in his first three career starts, particularly last week against the Gators where he threw three interceptions. However, Dormady has a chance to build confidence against the abysmal UMass secondary. The Minutemen defense has given up over 350 yards in each of their first four games this season. The teams UMass has faced include: Hawaii, Coastal Carolina and Temple. There are no excuses for Dormady to have any problems throwing the football on Saturday. It should serve as a confidence booster heading into the Vols crucial game against Georgia.
No. 2: Andrew Ford vs. the Tennessee secondary
UMass doesn’t have much to brag about after four straight losses to start 2017, but Ford will be a handful for the Tennessee defense. The Vols secondary has yet to be tested by a true pass-first offense this season, and that is just what the Minutemen will bring to the table Saturday. Ford has passed for over 1,200 yards for six touchdowns and one interception in four games. If he manages to get any support from the run game, Ford could piece together a decent game on Saturday. Look to see how the Tennessee secondary looks against its first true test of the season.
3. Tennessee’s running backs vs. the UMass front seven
It’s safe to say that running backs Ty Chandler, Carlin Fils-Aime and Tim Jordan could all see the field against the Minutemen. UMass’ defense has been absolutely gashed on the ground in two of their first four games. The Minutemen gave up 197 rushing yards against Old Dominion and 321 yards on the ground against Coastal Carolina. Watch for John Kelly and the stable of Tennessee running backs to have a solid day on the ground against UMass.
4. Tennessee’s defensive line vs. the UMass offensive line
This will easily be the most dominating matchup in the whole game on Saturday. Tennessee’s defensive line has shown improvement week-to-week after facing its first conventional offense in Gainesville last week. The Minutemen offensive line have given up just 23 sacks through four games this season. It’s going to get rough in Neyland this weekend in the trenches. Tennessee has had more impact pressuring the quarterback lately, so expect them to really break through against UMass.
5. UMass run game vs. the Tennessee front seven
The Volunteers have managed to contain the past two teams on the ground after Georgia Tech rushed for over 500 yards in week one. The Minutemen don’t have what you would call an effective run game, as they have logged just 354 yards rushing in four games. The leading rusher for UMass is running back Marquis Young who has tallied just 225 yards so far in 2017. The Tennessee front seven has been depleted by injuries early this season, so watch for how they react to a struggling Minutemen rushing attack.
Edited by Ben McKee
Feature image courtesy of UT Sports