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2016 Opponent Look Ahead: Appalachian State

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Appalachian State at Tennessee

When: Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016 at 7:30pm EST

Where: Knoxville, TN (Neyland Stadium)

Early line: Tennessee favored by 23 (per Golden Nugget)

App State at a glance

Head coach: Scott Satterfield (3rd year)

Conference: Sun Belt

All-time record: 575-326-28

2015 results: 11-2 (7-1); Beat Ohio 31-29 in Camellia Bowl

2015 Overview: The Appalachian State Mountaineers recently made the jump from FCS to FBS when they joined the Sun Belt conference in 2014. Before that they won 10 conference championships and three FCS national championships under previous head coach Jerry Moore. In their first 2 seasons at the FBS level, the Mountaineers went 7-4 and 11-2. Current Head Coach Scott Satterfield seems to have handled the transition well as his only losses last season came against Clemson and eventual Sun Belt champs, Arkansas State – although Arkansas State actually finished with a worse overall record.

Satterfield has developed a potent offense very similar to Tennessee’s with a dual-threat QB and two incredible running backs, including All-America candidate Marcus Cox. With over 1,400 yards last season, Cox finished top-15 in the nation in rushing. Rising sophomore Jalin Moore finished his freshman campaign with over 700 yards rushing, and rising junior QB Taylor Lamb added just over 430 of his own rushing yards. Combined, the trio make for a dangerous offense capable of wearing down defenses and controlling the clock. Lamb, who has been the starting quarterback since his freshman season, is also a threat through the air as he threw for nearly 2,400 yards with 31 TDs to just nine INTs.

Defensively, App State finished 11th in total defense and 14th in scoring defense last season. Obviously all of these numbers were produced in the Sun Belt, but it would be naive to think they are a simple pushover. The Mountaineers 29 touchdowns allowed on defense was still better than Tennessee’s 33. All that to say, relative to their conference and strength of schedule, App State was very similar to the Volunteers in 2015.

Three questions for this game:

1. Will Tennessee come out swinging?

One thing Tennessee does not want for its home opener is a close game against a Sun Belt team. They will need to come out of the gate hot and on fire early. Although it will take a lot for App State to win this game, they are still not a team you want to let linger around. They do have talent and they will still make some big plays. And if you’re the Vols, you don’t want that to happen in the 3rd quarter when you are only up by 10 or so. Tennessee’s goal for this game should be having it under control by halftime. But that means taking care of business early. Don’t play around and slack off or overlook your opponent. Score early, score often.

2. What will Bob Shoop’s defense look like?

Like everyone else out there, we here at Rocky Top Insider are pretty high on Bob Shoop as Tennessee’s new defensive coordinator. A DC who says he’s “never seen a blitz package he didn’t like” paired with the sheer talent on Tennessee’s defense should make for a fun defense to watch in 2016. That being said, it’ll be interesting to see what the defense will look like. It’s safe to say Mountaineer QB Taylor Lamb will be pressured all game long, but we are also intrigued to see the development of the defense as well as the different packages that might hit the field.

3. Who will start/get significant playing time?

This question might be at least somewhat answered in fall camp. But if history is any indicator, Butch Jones doesn’t usually announce all the starters until game day. So assuming we haven’t been told by September 1st, this one’s up in the air until then. Who will the starting offensive line be? Who will start at safety opposite Todd Kelly Jr? Will any of the freshmen receivers see the field? I have my predictions, but we won’t know for another 37 days.

How do we expect it to play out?

By all means, Tennessee should and will win this game. I expect to see Quinten Dormady and some of the younger guys by middle of the third quarter. App State will likely score some points, but they simply won’t be able to keep up with Tennessee, especially in Neyland Stadium.

The spread for this game is currently set at -23 in favor of the Vols and I would have no problem putting my money on the them if I were a gambling man. I expect the offense to put up big points and for Bob Shoop’s defense to be a challenge for the Mountaineers. My biggest concern for Tennessee is suffering an injury heading into the Battle at Bristol and then Florida towards the end of September. If they can escape injury-free, the Volunteers should finish this game without any problems whatsoever.

Score prediction: 55-17

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