Tennessee (1-4, 0-2 SEC) lost 43-14 to No. 3 Georgia in Neyland last week, but the Volunteers showed improvement from their game against Florida.
This Saturday the Volunteers will be back in Neyland in a matchup against the Mississippi State Bulldogs (3-2, 1-1 SEC).
The Bulldogs are coming off a bye week, but they were defeated 56-23 by No. 12 Auburn when they last took the field on Sept. 28.
The Mississippi State defense gave up 361 yards through the air and another 217 yards on the ground.
However, the Tennessee defense did not do much better against Georgia. The Volunteers yielded 288 passing yards and 238 rushing yards.
On the other side of the ball, Tennessee put together their best offensive showing of the year, apart from their matchup against UT Chattanooga. The Volunteers put up 343 rushing and passing yards combined with just two turnovers.
Quarterback Brian Maurer played a significant role in Tennessee’s offensive success, as the true freshman threw for 259 yards and two scores in his first start. He also gave up an interception and a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
“[Maurer has] done some nice things, especially early on. Made some really really nice throws,” Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt said at a Monday press conference. “Got the ball out of his hand, but he also made some mistakes too, right? Probably should have handed the ball off a couple of times, made some incorrect reads there.”
Pruitt said Maurer would have to perform poorly in practice to lose the starting job against Mississippi State.
Mississippi State had similar offensive numbers against Auburn, as the Bulldogs finished with 334 combined yards and two turnovers.
If Tennessee can field an offense that is similar to the one that came out in the first half against Georgia, the Vols’ matchup against Mississippi State could turn into a shoot out.
If the offense looks more like the one that came out in the second half of last week’s game, the Vols could lose this game early, as Tennessee’s defense may struggle to get the Mississippi State offense off the field.
Christian Knox, sports editor – Mississippi State 31, Tennessee 24
This Tennessee team is slowly becoming a squad that could win in the SEC, but the Vols have not arrived yet. The Volunteer offense will be able to move the ball on the Bulldogs, but the defense will not be able to get enough stops in the end.
Ben Gleason, sports media – Mississippi State 24, Tennessee 20
While Mississippi State has not played great, they have performed well enough to scrape past mediocre football teams. Neyland will receive its long-overdue exciting ending to an SEC game. However, the happiness will be left out as Mississippi State drives late for a game-winning touchdown.
Game Time and Coverage
Kickoff in Neyland Stadium on Saturday is slated for 12 p.m. EDT. The game will air on the SEC Network, and TNJN will have more coverage on Tennessee vs. Mississippi State following the game.
Edited by Ben Gleason and Ainsley Kelso
Featured photo by Ben Gleason