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We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“What does Tennessee have to do to pull the upset Saturday?” – Dawson
Nathanael: I think the plan on offense, to me, needs to be similar to what UT didn’t against South Carolina. Kentucky has a stellar pass defense, and so did South Carolina. The Vols found a way to get some room against the Gamecocks by attempting quick, shorter passes and didn’t let Guarantano hold the ball very long. With the exceptional pass rush that the Wildcats have (especially Josh Allen), I think UT needs to do something similar this weekend. On defense, they have to slow down Benny Snell and not let Lynn Bowden get too much room in the passing game.
Ben: The perfect storm has to happen on Saturday for Tennessee to win. Essentially, the Vols have to replicate the formula of how they beat Auburn. I do think Tennessee will have to play better than it did against Auburn in order to win this game. Kentucky is a better team than the Tigers, and they’re playing for a lot more. Benny Snell is going to be productive, but it’s going to be up to Tennessee to limit his production. Snell will have at least 70 to 80 rushing yards, but can the Vols prevent him from getting to around 150? If they can, all the pressure falls on Terry Wilson, and at that point, Tennessee’s chances of winning go up significantly.
“How’s JJ Peterson doing?” – @tjvol49
Nathanael: He’s progressing, but I don’t expect him to play on defense at all in these last three games. He’ll still be on just special teams, in my opinion. The staff is still looking to redshirt him this year.
“How many UK fans should we expect to see in Neyland on Saturday?” – Jason
Nathanael: I know Ben is expecting a ton of Kentucky fans, and I expect quite a few to show up. But I don’t know if I expect as many as he is. I still think you’ll see upwards of 15,000 or so Kentucky fans in Knoxville on Saturday. It’ll be the most Wildcat fans you’ve ever seen in Neyland regardless.
Ben: Unfortunately, I think we’ll see quite a bit. In my opinion, it’ll be the largest Kentucky crowd we’ve ever seen in Neyland Stadium. Though the Cats lost the SEC East Championship Game last Saturday, they’re still playing for a New Years Six Bowl. Kentucky fans are excited about potentially seeing their program win in Neyland for the first time since 1984, whereas Tennessee fans are just ready to get this year over with and focus on recruiting. I think we’ll see at least 25,000 of Big Blue Nation.
“What will the most surprising add to the ’19 class be?” – Nathan
Nathanael: I think Tennessee could be major players for a five-star from the state of Georgia that isn’t getting as much attention right now. Owen Pappoe is getting a lot of headlines, and rightfully so. But the Vols are about to make some significant strides in the Peach State, so keep an eye out there. I’m not making any guarantees, but that would definitely constitute as a surprising addition.
Ben: This is purely a prediction, but I’ll say Owen Pappoe as well. It’s not necessarily trending to where it’ll be a surprise by the time he signs, but a year ago, I would have been shocked if he signed with Tennessee, and that’s why I’m saying he’ll be the most surprising addition. Things are trending well with the five-star Auburn commit.
“Chances of landing more high ranked recruits in football?” – @colon_crusher
Nathanael: Very high. Players like Darnell Wright, Owen Pappoe, and Eric Gray are all highly-rated, and Tennessee is in a great spot for all of them. The Vols are going to close pretty strong in this class in my opinion.
Ben: With where Tennessee currently stands with its top targets, I believe we’ll see the Vols finish with no worse than the No. 10 recruiting class in the country. There are quite a few high-level recruits giving Tennessee a strong look right now. It may not seem like Jeremy Pruitt is making a ton of noise in recruiting right now, but behind the scenes, he and his staff are moving mountains.
“Is it fair to expect TN men’s basketball to win a title this season?” – @htcook1999
Nathanael: It absolutely is. A national title? Maybe not that. But an SEC regular season or tournament title? Definitely. This team has arguably the deepest roster in college basketball, and they have a ton of chemistry as well. Most of these guys have been playing basketball with each other for three or even four years. They know what they other guy is going to do before he does it. And they’ve been developed and coached well. I definitely think it’s fair to expect some sort of title from this team this year.
Ben: Absolutely fair. They are talented, have great depth, are experienced, and they have great coaching. More importantly, they have great chemistry. Tennessee is going to give opposing coaches nightmares this season and are a legitimate contender to win a National Championship if they can remain healthy.
However, I don’t believe it’s fair to say the season was a failure if the Vols don’t win a Natty. Tennessee can still have a great season without winning a championship.