Conference: Missouri Valley
Head Coach: Curt Mallory, 1st season
Team Nickname: Sycamores
Location: Terre Haute, Indiana
Leading Passer: Cade Sparks (3-of-9, 95 yards)
Leading Rusher: Lemonte Booker (31 carries, 154 yards. TD)
Leading Receiver: Curtis Lee (2 catches, 47 yards)
The Vols will play their home opener this Saturday against FCS opponent Indiana State. This game will mark the first time the two teams have ever played, and it will be the first FBS school the Sycamores have faced this season.
Indiana State lost their season opener to Eastern Illinois 22-20 on Thursday, August 31st. And they lost it in dramatic fashion, letting Eastern Illinois drive down the field in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter to score the game-winning touchdown. But Indiana State had racked up some yards on the ground before that, and Lemonte Booker led the way with 154 yards and a score on 31 carries.
The Sycamores’ passing attack, however, left much to be desired. Cade Sparks and Isaac Harker combined to complete just seven of their 19 passes for 133 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. No receiver had more than 50 yards total in the game.
Indiana State’s defense wasn’t too bad, only allowing 202 passing yards and just 76 rushing yards to the Panthers. But that was to another FCS school. Tennessee should and will post better numbers against this out-matched defense.
Tennessee’s run defense suffered big time against Georgia Tech, but they should find it much easier to slow down the Sycamore’s rushing attack. Indiana State has a capable backfield for an FCS team. But they shouldn’t be much of a match for an FBS opponent like the Vols.
All in all, the Sycamores are a middle-of-the-pack type of FCS team with a new head coach. If they give Tennessee a fight, that should be considered a success in their books. The Vols could trot out their second and third string players to start this game and could come away with a victory. That’s not meant as disrespect towards Indiana State; the talent gap is just that wide between a top 25 FBS school and a mid-tier FCS school.
Indiana State has potential to be better than the 4-7 record they put up last season, but they’ll more than likely begin this season 0-2 after this Saturday’s match-up in Neyland Stadium.