Writing and editing at an outlet based out of Chattanooga in the past, I gained an appreciation for what the Mocs are doing. It’s a feisty program and Russ Huesman is a fine football coach who built the program the right way and is now seeing dividends. UTC claimed a share of the Southern Conference regular season title last season and the Mocs will be in the hunt again this year. They usually play about one FBS opponent per year and generally they make a respectable appearance. Earlier this season, UTC gave Central Michigan, Butch’s old stomping grounds, a scare. The Mocs have also played at Alabama, Nebraska and South Florida in recent years.
With all that said, Tennessee will win this game. If there’s any doubt of the outcome by about mid-way through the third quarter, that’s a significant problem for Tennessee. But the final score won’t be the most important thing on Saturday. The Vols don’t need to blow the Mocs out by 70. They just need to execute, find some rhythm on offense especially, gain confidence, get some younger guys experience, stay healthy and become a better football team on Saturday. The upcoming schedule demands that the Vols do just that if they’re going to have any chance in the following two games.
I expect the Mocs to score at least once on Tennessee’s starting defense – possibly a field goal – which the Mocs are perfect on for the season. But the Vols should be able to put up several touchdown early to build something like a 28-3 lead at halftime. Look for the backups to start mixing in a little more in the third quarter on both sides of the ball. Nathan Peterman will get to take some reps at quarterback by about midway through the third quarter. The offensive flow and rhythm will slow with the reserves in, but UT gets at least a couple scores in the second half and maybe gets Aaron Medley some more work. The Mocs will tack on a touchdown in the fourth quarter to make the final score a little more respectable. Bonus prediction: the game ends on a handoff or a kneel down from Mike Wegzyn. Pick: Tennessee 45-10
MVP: Tennessee running back Derrell Scott
I’m going out on a limb here. We haven’t seen him play, after all, and that’s probably ambitious to call him the potential MVP. I just think he’ll get a lot of work Saturday now that he’s 100-percent healthy and the Vols won’t be in such a tight game. Butch Jones will want to get him some reps with the starters on offense to get him experience playing with those guys. He also could be used in mop-up duty. Once the game is out of hand, I’d be surprised if Jalen Hurd (shoulder) or Marlin Lane (ankle) get much work. They both need to rest injuries. So it’ll be a great opportunity to see what Scott can do and help him make up for missed reps earlier this season. I’ll predict he gets at least 15 touches, flirts with 100 yards of total offense and scores at least one touchdown.
The question isn’t if Tennessee will win this weekend, but rather, how much will they ultimately win by. This game comes at a great time for Tennessee. The Vols are in the midst of a three-game losing skid and need to have a day where mistakes won’t cost them the game. I would expect to see the Vols do what they need to do to jump out early in this one so that they can start getting some of the younger players reps as early as possible in hopes to build some confidence and much-needed depth for the second half of the season. T
The key for Tennessee this week is to focus on what they’ve done wrong in the previous three games and go out and get it right on Saturday – blocking schemes, route running, blitz recognition, protecting the football…etc must all be focal points in this game. Not to downplay Chattanooga, but the Vols must use this weekend as a glorified practice to tighten things up before the next three-week stretch of games against Ole Miss, Alabama and South Carolina. Stealing one or two of these games could completely turn the momentum of this season back in Tennessee’s favor and reinvigorate the fan-base after the tough loss to Florida.
I expect Tennessee’s starters to play well early, put up some points and secure the game before handing the reigns over to the backups in this one. There will be some mistakes by the younger players in this game, but that is to be expected and will prove beneficial down the road when those players will be relied upon. Pick: Vols 45- 17
MVP: Tennessee Wide Receiver Marquez North
North has been somewhat quiet in big games this year, so I expect Tennessee to lean on him early to build the lead and help him regain some confidence. I was tempted to pick a running back here, but Tennessee will be using so many this weekend that I don’t think any one of them will put up mind-blowing numbers. North should be able to dominate UTC’s corners and out-athlete anybody they try to put in front of him. I could easily see him with over 100 yards and a touchdown or two by halftime before taking the rest of the day off.
The final outcome is a foregone conclusion – how the Vols get there is what’s important this week. Tennessee is likely to play a ton of young players and there’s a good chance several freshmen who you haven’t seen much from will see significant snaps. As my colleagues wrote, don’t pay too much attention to the final score. The Vols need this game to regroup after a rough loss to Florida and the Mocs will allow the Vols to hit the reset button before heading down the stretch.
Look for Tennessee’s offense to get back on track. The Vol offense isn’t near as bad as it looked last weekend, but it does have issues. The offensive line will likely give up a couple big plays to UTC’s talented DL, but Tennessee should be able to run the ball more effectively this week. You should see a healthy dose of Derrell Scott at running back and may even get an Evan Berry sighting on offense. Worley needs to settle down after struggling last week and lead the Vols to a couple of early scores. Don’t be surprised if Peterman sees significant time in the second half.
The Mocs have a balanced offense and could put together a couple of big plays. They shouldn’t, however, be able to string together long drives on the Vol defense. Cortez McDowell needs to get on the field at linebacker to help add depth. He could have a big day. Tennessee’s secondary and defensive front will have a chance to play some of its younger players and prepare them for the homestretch of the schedule when injuries will probably force some of them into action. How important the young guys play will be the story of this game.
Bonus pick: The Vols have at least one long kick or punt return this weekend. Pick: Vol 45-18
MVP: Tennessee’s Defensive Line
UTC’s offense would give a lot of teams trouble but Tennessee’s defensive front should tally numerous sacks and corral dual-threat QB Jacob Huesman for much of the day. Don’t be surprised if they blow UTC’s line a few times and cause a turnover or two. Dewayne Hendrix, who Vol fans haven’t seen much from due to Derek Barnett’s outstanding play, should see a ton of snaps. Don’t be surprised if he makes several big plays.