Managing editor Nathanael Rutherford and staff writer Ben McKee will “buy or sell” the likelihood of several things happening each week before a Tennessee football game. Here are their takes on the Vols’ match-up with Georgia State to start the 2019 season as well as some takes on the Vols’ 2019 campaign.
Buy or Sell: The Vols will score 50 points against Georgia State.
Nathanael: Last season, Georgia State allowed 50 points in two different games, and they gave up at least 40 points in five of their 12 games. I don’t think the Vols will quite get to that 50 point mark, though. I’m going to sell it, though I do think UT likely scores within 42-48 points. That front seven of Georgia State doesn’t scare me one bit, and I don’t know that their secondary can hold up all that well, either. But I think the Vols will keep the offense pretty bland, which won’t lead to a deluge of points.
Ben: I’m buying Tennessee scoring 50 points in the season-opener on Saturday. Georgia State doesn’t have the bodies to keep up with Tennessee’s playmakers on the outside. Marquez Callaway, Jauan Jennings, Josh Palmer, and Brandon Johnson have all had big fall camps, and I expect that to bleed over into the game on Saturday. I’m expecting a big day for Jarrett Guarantano and the Vols’ passing attack.
Buy or Sell: JT Shrout and Brian Maurer will both play on Saturday.
Nathanael: I think you’ll see both play, but I don’t know how much. Tennessee should have this game pretty handily in the bag by the midpoint of the third quarter, so ideally Guarantano will come out and Shrout will come in at that point. I would bet they let Shrout run a couple series then let Maurer run a couple series, too. So I’m buying this.
Ben: Yes, both freshmen quarterbacks will play. Neither JT Shrout nor Brian Maurer have separated themselves from the other to be Tennessee’s No. 2 quarterback. As a result, Tennessee will give both an opportunity to play against Georgia State. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not one of them receives significant more playing time than the other.
Buy or Sell: Georgia State scores two touchdowns.
Nathanael: I think Georgia State will score two touchdowns and could tack on a field goal, but nothing more than that. Historically, the Panthers haven’t scored many touchdowns against Power Five opponents, and I would be floored if they ended up with three against UT on Saturday. I thin 17 points is the absolute ceiling for them in this game.
Ben: Georgia State will score exactly two touchdowns in Neyland Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Tennessee has an entirely new defensive line that also has depth concerns, and there’s concern about depth at linebacker and in the secondary. Georgia State quarterback Dan Ellington is a true dual-threat and could present a problem or two.
Buy or Sell: Tennessee scores a special teams touchdown against Georgia State.
Nathanael: Georgia State actually has a really good special teams unit. Their punter was a Ray Guy Award semifinalist last season, and he’s a legit threat to win the award this season. He also handles kick-offs, and he can absolutely boot the ball. I don’t expect Georgia State to kick-off very much, and I think they’ll do what they can to make punts unreturnable. I’m selling this one.
Ben: I’m putting money on Marquez Callaway returning a punt for a touchdown against the Panthers. The biggest discrepancy between programs such as Tennessee and programs such as Georgia State is always on special teams. Callaway will take advantage of just that.
Buy or Sell: Tennessee will have four Freshman All-SEC Players in 2019.
Nathanael: Man…four is a lot to buy into, but I’m very tempted. I think Henry To’oto’o and Wanya Morris will definitely get that as long as both stay healthy, and I’m a big believer in Warren Burrell. He should get that recognition as well. Darnell Wright certainly could, but he’ll have to take over a starting role here in the next couple weeks for that to become a reality. Even running back Eric Gray could get a Freshman All-SEC nod. The last time Tennessee had four All-SEC Freshmen by the end of the season was 2011 when Marcus Jackson, AJ Johnson, Curt Maggitt, and Brian Randolph all were voted as such. The 2010 and 2000 teams also had four Freshmen All-SEC players, and the 2003 Vol squad had five.
I feel nervous about doing it, but I’m going to buy it.
Ben: Tennessee will have two Freshman All-SEC players in 2019. After strong fall camps, I believe running back Eric Gray and inside linebacker Henry To’oto’o are poised for excellent freshman campaigns. Gray and To’oto’o will both have big seasons thanks to their maturity. Darnell Wright and Wanya Morris could become the third, and maybe fourth Vol, to make the All-SEC freshman team. But first the freshmen need to lock down a starting job and prove they can hold their own throughout the season.
Buy or Sell: Jarrett Guarantano has thrown for 200-plus yards in just four of his 18 starts. That number doubles in 2019.
Nathanael: I absolutely think he will. As long as Guarantano stays healthy, I feel very confident in buying this. An example I’ll give: Josh Dobbs had 8 games of 200-plus yards passing in his first 18 starts of his UT career. In his 13 starts of his fourth year on campus in 2016, he doubled that with 8 games of 200-plus yards passing. If Dobbs, who wasn’t the most gifted passer while he was at UT, can do that in his fourth year, then I think Guarantano can at least get four games in his fourth season on campus, if not five, six, or seven.
Ben: Yes, Jarrett Guarantano will throw for at least 200 yards in at least four games this season. Those performances will come against Georgia State, Tennessee-Chattanooga, UAB, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt. Guarantano is improved, has great players to catch his passes, and has a tremendous offensive coordinator. I’m expecting a big season from the redshirt junior if the offensive line can give him enough time to make plays.
Buy or Sell: The Vols will have a 1,000-yard rusher in 2019.
Nathanael: I’m selling this. I think Ty Chandler will be Tennessee’s leading rusher, but I don’t think he’ll get 1,000 yards on the ground. He won’t have enough carries to get there, in my opinion. Tim Jordan and Eric Gray will steal enough away from him to keep him from doing so. Plus, I still don’t know that the offensive line will be good enough to help get him there. I do expect him to get around 1,200-1,400 yards of total offense given how much he’ll likely be used in the passing game, though.
Ben: No, Tennessee will not have a 1,000-yard rusher in 2019. That doesn’t mean I think the running game will be a failure. I just don’t believe Tennessee has a back that will carry the ball 18-to-20 times a game. Ty Chandler is the clear No. 1 back, but Tim Jordan and Eric Gray are going to receive their fair share of carries. Plus, with Chandler, I imagine he’ll be used quite a bit in the passing game as well.
If Tennessee does have a 1,000-yard rusher, however, it’ll be Chandler.