I think this is going to be a decently fun game to watch. Bowling Green has enough offensive firepower to keep things a little bit interesting. The Falcons’ tempo could lead to some points, but I also think it will lead to a lot of possessions for the Vols as well and a lot of opportunities to show off their enhanced offense. Thus, I see the ball going up and down the field a good bit and close to 60 points or more being scored. Based off some of the clunker games on opening night, maybe that’s a little bit overly-optimistic, but at least I hope that’s how it plays out.
I’m thinking Bowling Green scores about 10-14 points against UT’s primary defensive players and then maybe adds a score on the backups as well. Tennessee, meanwhile, will score early and often against a Bowling Green defense that was horrific even by MAC standards in 2014 and faces a ton of questions in 2015. The Vols will take their foot off the gas a bit late and cruise to a comfortable win that will certainly leave the Vols with some things to work on, but will also be a nice start to the season and something to build on heading into Oklahoma week.
Pick: Tennessee 42-20
MVP: Vol WR Jauan Jennings
I think this game sets up nicely for him. With Pig Howard and others out, Jennings should get a lot of snaps and opportunities to make plays. I could see him putting up over 100 yards of total offense, making some nice blocks in the run game and contributing on special teams as well. Don’t overlook his value in those last two parts – those are a big part of the reason the coaches love him. As I watched Pharoh Cooper on Thursday night for South Carolina, I continue to think that Jennings could grow into that type of player (except bigger physically) in time for the Vols. Saturday could be a nice step in that direction for him.
There isn’t a ton to say about this game, really. Tennessee is more talented from top-to-bottom and shouldn’t have any trouble getting out of Nashville with a comfortable win over the Falcons. I expect the Vols to play a lot of young guys as they continue to build depth along both lines of scrimmage and in the secondary, and I think a few of those young guys will make some head-turning plays, while also making a few mistakes. I’m not expecting a perfect game from Tennessee in this one…There are simply too many new guys in key spots to expect the ideal game, but the talent gap will be too much for Bowling Green to match for four quarters – even if the Falcons make a couple of big plays in the first half. Some late scores make it look closer than it was (think Iowa), but this game will never be in doubt for the good guys.
Tennessee’s defense will give up some big plays, but I expect them to bow their neck in the red zone for most of the day and force a handful of turnovers. Joshua Dobbs and Quinten Dormady will each be responsible for at least two touchdowns, and Tennessee’s ground game will show flashes of brilliance before the starters come out of the game.
Pick: Tennessee 55-27
MVP: Vol WR Jauan Jennings
I’m a little upset that DL stole my pick here, but I can’t blame a mid-state guy for going with the hometown hero in this one. Jennings has been a more-than-pleasant surprise this camp, and I think he’s itching to perform when it counts. He’ll likely play longer than most of the other wideouts as they continue to work him into form, so look for him to make some big plays in each half. A direct snap or wildcat look from Jennings wouldn’t surprise me, but my guess is that he approaches triple-digit receiving yards and a touchdown or two in this game…with a reverse or sweep thrown in for good measure.
No need to mince words: I don’t expect there to be much drama in this game. Bowling Green’s defense ranked second to last in the MAC last year and surrendered 59 points to Western Kentucky, 42 points to Indiana, 68 points to Wisconsin, 41 points to Ball State and 51 points to Northern Illinois.
The Vols have more talent on offense than all those teams – Tennessee should be able to name its score on Saturday.
Offensively, Bowling Green has some talented skill players and should be able to move the ball at times on Tennessee’s defense. Don’t be surprised if the Falcons score an early TD as the Vols find their rhythm. A garbage time touchdown with Tennessee’s subs on the field will probably make this score more respectable, but I love Tennessee to cover the 20.5 point spread.
Vols roll to an easy victory and get their subs some valuable reps headed into next week’s showdown with the Sooners.
Pick: Volunteers 52-20
MVP: Vol Receiver Josh Malone
Tennessee is playing this game to showcase the program to mid-state Vol fans and recruits. Josh Malone, after an up and down freshman campaign, has been playing his best football the last few weeks. I’m also tempted to go with Jennings here as I think Jones will feed both Malone and Jennings early and often to demonstrate that mid-state talent can make a big impact at Tennessee – both should have big days against a defense which won’t be able to match their athleticism. Ultimately, I’m going with Malone because he’s made some big catches in college already and simply looks ready to have his first breakout game.