May 25, 2024

Matchups to watch vs. Tennessee Tech

After losing three straight games to SEC opponents, Tennessee looks to rebound against Tennessee Tech on Saturday. Here are some matchups to watch out for.

COLLEGE STATION, TX - OCTOBER 08, 2016 - Tennessee Volunteers during the game between the Texas A&M Aggies and the Tennessee Volunteers at Kyle Field in College Station, TX. Photo By Donald Page/Tennessee Athletics

Things have gone sour for Tennessee in recent weeks. The loss to South Carolina greatly reduced the Vols’ chances of winning the SEC East. However, Tennessee has a more forgiving match-up against a Tennessee Tech team that allows 28.3 points per game.

Still, there are position battles the Vols must take advantage of on Saturday to ensure bowl eligibility.

Tennessee’s rushing attack vs. Tennessee Tech’s run defense

The Golden Eagles allowed 182 rushing yards against a five-loss Southeast Missouri team two weekends ago. Even though Tennessee has lost its leading rusher in Jalen Hurd and are without Alvin Kamara due to a knee injury, sophomore John Kelly has made the most of his opportunities and appears to be a viable third option. Last week against South Carolina, Kelly rushed for a career-high 94 yards on 14 carries. In addition, thanks to the thin Vol backfield, quarterback Joshua Dobbs will shoulder a heavier rushing load.

Josh Dobbs vs. Michael Birdsong

Tennessee has had issues turning the ball over during crucial moments of the game, especially through the air. Dobbs threw two interceptions last Saturday and completed less than half of his passes. Since it appears that Dobbs has regressed passing the ball in recent games, teams are making him rely on his arm more than his legs. Despite that, the Vols shouldn’t have issues moving the ball through the air against a weak Tennessee Tech defense.

As for the Golden Eagles, quarterback Michael Birdsong has passed for 1,967 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season. The former Division I quarterback could have the same luck that South Carolina’s Jake Bentley had passing the ball against a thin Tennessee secondary.

Tennessee’s motivation vs. Tennessee Tech’s opportunity

Head coach Butch Jones knows the spotlight is on him this week following the tumultuous turn of events the Vols have experienced this season. If Tennessee plays like a team with urgency, they’ll more than likely coast against Tennessee Tech. However, if the Vols lack enthusiasm and come out flat, they’ll lose fan support, along with the game itself.

Even though the Golden Eagles are 3-5, Tennessee Tech is fully aware of Tennessee’s deficiencies. Tennessee Tech will have to keep the game close entering the fourth quarter if they have any prayer of pulling off arguably the biggest upset of the college football season.

As for the Vols, this game provides an opportunity to hit the reset button and finish the season strong.

Edited by David Bradford 

Featured image by Donald Page, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

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