It’s that time of year where we give our game-by-game predictions for the Vols’ season. Will Tennessee get back to a bowl? Will they surprise folks and contend for the SEC East? We’ve got you covered.
August 31st – Utah State
Daniel: I see no reason that the Aggies will be intimidated in this one. Most of them have played – and have come really close to winning – games against power programs. Future NFL players QB Chuckie Keeton and LB Kyler Fackrell should make the Vols very nervous. In the end, if Tennessee limits mistakes and gets the ball in the hands of its playmakers, the Vols will have enough to pull this one out in front of a sold-out crowd that will be overwhelmingly pro-UT. Tennessee’s overall size, speed and athleticism should be the difference, even if much of it is young and untested. It’s a game that can slip away if the Vols play sloppy football, however. Winner: Volunteers
Houston: Utah State being such a quality opponent with such a star at quarterback has helped Tennessee’s focus during their work over the summer. The Vols understand what Utah State is capable if not taken seriously. The key for Tennessee on defense will be to not get caught watching Keeton in the backfield and lose sight of receivers and running backs downfield. Utah State will move the ball at times, so Tennessee’s ability to keep them out of the end zone and force them into field goal attempts will be key. Expect the Vol receivers to run around open frequently against the inexperienced Utah State secondary, so if Worley can deliver an accurate football then he will be looking at a big night. Lane and Hurd should be able to salt this one away late after the passing game softens up the Aggie defense. Winner: Volunteers
Reed: If you’re not familiar with Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton, you will be shortly after kickoff Sunday. He’s one of the best QBs in college football and can beat defenses from the pocket and with his legs. Containing him will be key, but Tennessee will also have to pressure him while when he sits in the pocket. If the Vols can’t find ways to disrupt his rhythm, it’ll be a long night. Even though Utah State has a big advantage at quarterback, the Vols should win this one due to a key matchup: the Vol receivers vs. Utah State’s inexperienced secondary. The Aggies will be breaking in three new starters in the defensive backfield this season and four of their top six reserves will also be seeing their first significant action. As long as the Vols don’t catch the turnover bug (see the South Alabama game last season), this should be a double-digit victory. Winner: Volunteers