Tennessee takes the field on Saturday afternoon for the first game of their 2019 season. The Vols are playing host to Georgia State, and it marks only the second time the two programs have ever played each other in football.
Both teams are looking to bounce back after disappointing 2018 seasons. Tennessee went 5-7 in head coach Jeremy Pruitt’s first year at the helm, and Georgia State fell to an abysmal 2-10 in head coach Shawn Elliot’s second year guiding the program.
If you want to know more about Georgia State, check out our complete opponent preview of the Panthers. Now, take a look at our “by the numbers” look at Saturday’s match-up.
Tennessee and Georgia State have faced-off before on the football field before, and the last time the two teams played each other, Jim Chaney was the Vols’ offensive coordinator just like he is again in 2019. Chaney helped lead UT’s offense to a resounding 51-13 victory on September 9, 2012. Quarterback Tyler Bray recorded his eighth career 300-plus yard passing performance, finishing 18-of-20 for 310 yards and four touchdowns.
The Vols have been dominant when they’ve opened up the season at home. Tennessee has won 20-straight home season openers on the football field. Tennessee opened up the season on a neutral site the last two years, but they defeated Appalachian State 20-13 in overtime in 2016 in their last home season opener.
Tennessee has had no trouble with teams in the Sun Belt Conference, the conference Georgia State is currently in. Tennessee is 10-0 against Sun Belt teams in their history. The Vols have won seven of those 10 contests by at least two scores, and six of those 10 victories have come by at least 20 points.
Georgia State, meanwhile, hasn’t had much luck against SEC foes. The Panthers are winless in their three previous games against SEC opponents. Their most recent match-up with an SEC team came in 2013 when they lost 45-3 to Alabama. They also lost 51-13 to the Vols in 2012 as previously mentioned, and they fell 63-7 to Alabama in 2010. The Panthers have yet to play any SEC schools other than Alabama and Tennessee.
The Panthers’ bad luck hasn’t just been contained to the SEC, though; Georgia State hasn’t had much luck against any Power Five opponent over the years. The Panthers are 0-8 against Power Five teams over the last decade, and only one contest has even been close. Georgia State gave Wisconsin a scare in 2016 when the Badgers clawed their way to a 23-17 victory. Aside from that game, though, Georgia State has lost to every other Power Five opponent they’ve played by at least 31 points.
Last season, Georgia State couldn’t stop anyone when it came to running the football. They got off to a decent start on the year, holding Kennesaw State to 181 yards rushing and NC State to just 115 yards on the ground, but then the floodgates opened when they played Memphis. The Tigers ran for 410 yards and three touchdowns, and that started a really bad trend for the Panthers. On the season, Georgia State gave up 251 yards rushing per game to their opponents, and teams scored 30 times on the ground against them. Georgia State allowed at least 200 rushing yards in all but four of their 12 games last season.
This year will mark only the 10th season of football for Georgia State’s program. The Panthers began playing football in 2010 as an FCS school, going 6-5 in their initial campaign. They dropped to 3-8 the next year then 1-10 in 2012 before making the jump to the FBS ranks in the Sun Belt Conference in 2013. Georgia State went winless in their first year as an FBS program, and they won just one game in their second year, going 1-11 in 2014. The Panthers went 6-7 in 2015 after making it to a bowl game, fell to 3-9 in 2016, and then went 7-5 in head coach Shawn Elliot’s first season in 2017 before falling to 2-10 last year. Overall, the Panthers are just 29-77 overall since they started playing football in 2010.
Nobody will mistake Georgia State for an SEC school on Saturday. The Panthers only have three players on their entire roster who weigh over 300 pounds, and all three are offensive linemen. There are another eight players who weigh between 295 pounds and 299 pounds listed on the official roster, but that’s still a far cry from what Tennessee and the rest of the SEC can boast.
Speaking of which, the Vols have 16 scholarship players who weigh in at 300 or more pounds, and those are just the players on scholarship. There are three walk-ons who also tip the scales over 300 pounds. Tennessee also has two other scholarship players who weight between 295 and 299 pounds on their roster, giving them 18 total players around that 300-pound threshold.