Buy or Sell: Tennessee vs. BYU

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    Photo by Jake Nichols/RTI

    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 BYU on Saturday.

    Buy or Sell: The Vols force two turnovers against BYU.

    Nathanael: The Vols have struggled the last two years at forcing turnovers, and that trend looks like it’s continuing in 2019. Despite BYU quarterback Zach Wilson throwing two pick-sixes against Utah last week, he and the Cougar offense aren’t typically very turnover-prone. Last year, BYU finished tied for 35th in the FBS in the least amount of giveaways with just 17 on the year. The Vols have only forced two or more turnovers in eight of their last 25 games dating back to the start of the 2017 season. So I’m selling that Tennessee gets two takeaways on Saturday.

    Ben: I’m selling Tennessee forcing two turnovers. BYU starting quarterback Zach Wilson threw two interceptions, both resulting in touchdowns for Utah’s defense in the season-opener. Both interceptions came when Utah was able to pressure Wilson. Unfortunately for Tennessee, it can’t generate the same type of pressure Utah’s defense can.

    Wilson took good care of the football last season in seven starts, throwing 12 touchdowns to just three interceptions.

    Buy or Sell: Tennessee rushes for 150 yards.

    Nathanael: Just like with the previous question, Tennessee has also struggled mightily over the last two years when it comes to running the football. Ever since UT lost Josh Dobbs, Alvin Kamara, and Jalen Hurd after the 2016 season, they’ve been pretty bad overall at running the ball. The Vols have been held under 150 rushing yards 18 times in their last 25 games. They couldn’t even get 100 rushing yards against Georgia State last week. So yeah, I’m selling this one too.

    Ben: I’m selling 150 rushing yards for the Vols for the same reason I’m selling Tennessee forcing two turnovers. They’re not strong enough in the trenches to successfully run the football against a very physical BYU defense. Tennessee couldn’t even get to 100 rushing yards against Georgia State.

    Buy or Sell: Tennessee holds BYU to under 150 rushing yards.

    Nathanael: BYU wasn’t particularly effective on the ground against Utah last week, but Utah’s defense is also very, very good. It’s much better than Tennessee’s. But the Cougars have also struggled to run the ball consistently well over the last two years, as they’ve been held under 150 rushing yards 15 times since the beginning of the 2017 season. My gut is telling me to sell this one, though, because quarterback Zach Wilson has a running ability that I don’t think UT’s defense is capable of handling effectively. The Vols struggled to contain Georgia State QB Dan Ellington last week, and Wilson is an even better runner than he is.

    Ben: I want to buy, and I will buy, but I have zero faith in Tennessee holding BYU under 150 rushing yards. The Vols couldn’t even hold Georgia State under 200 rushing yards, and the defense was all out of sorts. But for BYU, they don’t have a strong running game. Maybe it had more to do with the fact that the Cougars were playing a good Utah defense, but Tennessee’s defense scares me more than one of BYU’s running backs.

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    Buy or Sell: BYU’s Matt Bushman records at least eight receptions. 

    Nathanael: Buy, buy, buy. The Cougars don’t have a lot of speed on the outside, nor do they have very much in the way of explosive play-makers at the receiver position. But tight end Matt Bushman is Zach Wilson’s favorite target, and he’s a huge mismatch for Tennessee’s defense. He caught six passes last week against Utah when BYU’s offense struggled against a good defense, so I would be pretty surprised if he doesn’t match that total and exceed it on Saturday.

    Ben: I’m buying. BYU’s junior tight end is a nightmare match-up for Tennessee. I expect the Cougars to attack Tennessee’s defense with Bushman all day long. Whether it be a safety or a linebacker matched up on Bushman, I don’t believe it’s a favorable matchup for Tennessee.

    Buy or Sell: Aaron Beasley records at least one rush for the Vols on Saturday.

    Nathanael: I’m going to sell, though I’d like to see it happen. Jeremy Pruitt said this week that Tim Jordan has a “turned ankle,” but he didn’t specify that Jordan is out for Saturday’s game. If Jordan is good to go, then Ty Chandler and Eric Gray will get the most touches with Jordan spelling them occasionally. But if Jordan is out, I don’t know that you want to rely on just two running backs if you’re UT. If Beasley has proven in practice that he can hold on to the ball, then maybe he gets a look in a short yardage situation since he’s about 6-foot-1, 212 pounds.

    Ben: Sell. With Tim Jordan having a turned ankle, it’ll be the Eric Gray and Ty Chandler show. With just a couple of practices under Beasley’s belt, I don’t know that the coaching staff is going to trust the true freshman out there in such a pivotal game. If Beasley is playing, I think that means Chandler or Gray got hurt.

    Byr or Sell: There will actually be at least 90,000 fans in Neyland Stadium.

    Nathanael: I have no idea what to expect from the crowd on Saturday. I’m going to buy this one for now, though, because I think enough people are still bought in and invested enough to turn out for this game. If the Vols lose on Saturday, then I don’t know that you’ll have 90,000 for another home game all season.

    Ben: I’m buying a nice crowd (considering the circumstances) for Saturday’s game against BYU. It won’t be a sellout, but with plenty of BYU fans in attendance, there will be around 95,000 in Neyland Stadium. Tennessee’s announced attendance will be different than the actual attendance.