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Game Preview: Tennessee vs. Southern Miss

Tennessee (3-5) vs. Southern Miss (5-3)

Saturday, Nov. 4th, 7:30 ET

Neyland Stadium (102,455) • Knoxville, TN

TV: SEC Network

Series Record: Tennessee leads 5-0

 Setting the table

Tennessee hasn’t won a game this season since their last home game against a non-conference opponent. But even then, the Vols struggled to win that game against a winless UMass squad. Unfortunately for Tennessee, Southern Miss is much better than UMass, and Tennessee is trying to avoid their first homecoming loss since 2013.

 Who has the edge

When Tennessee throws…

Southern Miss has allowed only seven passing touchdowns all year, and they’ve picked off six passes while holding opponents to just a 51.2 completion percentage. Jarrett Guarantano turned in his best performance as the Vols’ quarterback last weekend, but he’s still yet to throw a touchdown as a starter. Throw in the fact that the Vols’ offensive line is in disarray, and Southern Miss could make it a tough day for the redshirt freshman. Edge: Slightly to Southern Miss

When Tennessee runs…

John Kelly will be back for the Vols, and that should give them a boost. Ty Chandler had his breakout performance last weekend against a bad Kentucky run defense, but the Golden Eagles pose a bigger threat when Tennessee runs it. Even with the Vols’ beleaguered offensive line, Kelly, Chandler, and Guarantano should be able to find some running lanes. Edge: Slightly to Tennessee

When Southern Miss throws…

Tennessee’s pass defense has had the benefit of not playing many teams who throw the ball a ton. In fact, the Vols’ opponents have attempted just 169 passes against them this season. That’s the lowest total in the entire country. The Vols’ pass defense has been largely fine this season, but Southern Miss will be the second-most pass happy team Tennessee has faced aside from UMass when it comes to passing attempts on the season. And Southern Miss is more dangerous through the air than UMass too, and they’ve only allowed 10 sacks on the season, which is tied for 18th in the nation. The Vols only have 15 total sacks this year. Edge: Push

When Southern Miss runs…

The Vols have been dreadful stopping the run this season. Southern Miss hasn’t been spectacular rushing the ball, but they’re above average and have mobile quarterbacks. That’s been a recipe for disaster for Tennessee this season.  Edge: Southern Miss

On special teams…

Will Evan Berry play? Who knows at this point. He hasn’t since the Georgia Tech game, so odds are he won’t in this one either. Even still, the Golden Eagles only kick touchbacks on roughly half of their kickoffs, and they have one of the worst kick coverage units in the country. Add to that the fact that Southern Miss is largely average or below average in kickoff returns and punt returns, and Tennessee has the edge here. The Golden Eagles are pretty consistent on kicking field goals at least. Edge: Tennessee

 Best-case scenario for UT 

Tennessee doesn’t embarrass themselves on homecoming with their fifth straight loss on the season and first homecoming loss since losing to a top-10 Auburn team in 2013.

 Worst-case scenario for UT

Tennessee embarrasses themselves on homecoming with their fifth straight loss on the season and first non-conference loss to a non-Power Five team since Wyoming in 2008.

 How we think it’ll play out

Southern Miss is a good Group of Five team. Tennessee struggled to beat a bad FBS team in UMass earlier this season, and they haven’t won a game since against SEC foes. Tennessee is more than capable of winning this game, especially if they can carry over some of the success they found on offense last week against Kentucky. But Tennessee still has trouble in the red zone and on third down, and Southern Miss’ defense is good in those areas as well.

Our picks:

Nathanael: Southern Miss 23-20
Will: Tennessee 28-24
Ben: Tennessee 34-20

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