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 UT-Chattanooga on Saturday and their takes on the upcoming SEC schedule.
Buy or Sell: All three scholarship quarterbacks see the field on Saturday.
Nathanael: As much as I think it would a good idea for Tennessee to get both JT Shrout and Brian Maurer on the field against UTC, I don’t think it happens. As Ben and I discussed on the podcast this week, it might be better for the offense and for Jarrett Guarantano to get his confidence up by allowing him to stay in the game a little longer. If that happens, then you probably only see one backup quarterback. So I’ll sell this. Plus, I’m not exactly sure if UT will get a big enough lead in the first half to be able to get two backups in during the second half if we’re being honest.
Ben: I’m selling. I think we’ll see two quarterbacks — Jarrett Guarantano and either Brain Maurer or JT Shrout. If Guarantano had played well against Georgia State and BYU, I think we would see all three quarterbacks. But Tennessee needs to build up the confidence of Guarantano heading into Florida week. That means the redshirt-junior will play longer than he normally would against a team like UTC and only one of the freshmen will play.
Buy or Sell: Eric Gray scores his first career touchdown as a Vol.
Nathanael: I’m definitely buying this. I’m a little surprised Gray hasn’t scored a touchdown yet for the Vols, but I think that changes against UTC. Whether he does it on the ground or through the air will be the interesting thing to watch. Maybe he scores one apiece.
Ben: Buy, buy, buy. Eric Gray has been on the verge of breaking off a big run in his first two career games. His first career touchdown will come this weekend against the Mocs on a run of at least 30 yards.
Buy or Sell: Two other pass catchers other than Jauan Jennings catch a touchdown pass.
Nathanael: I’m selling this one. I don’t know that UT will throw it enough to get more than two touchdown passes, really. They shouldn’t have to throw it a ton to beat UTC, and the less drop backs and potential for injury to Guarantano, the better. Now, could one of the backups come in and toss a touchdown and give a third receiver a score? That’s certainly possible. But through four games, Jauan Jennings has three of UT’s four receiving touchdowns. He’s been the bell cow.
Ben: I’m buying this one. I think Marquez Callaway and Josh Palmer will catch a touchdown. Dominick Wood-Anderson could also snag a touchdown. I’m interested to see how much Jim Chaney lets Guarantano throw the football. If I were Chaney, I’d put Guarantano in several situations to boost his confidence.
Buy or Sell: UTC will either have a lead or tie the game (beyond 0-0) at some point.
Nathanael: I’m actually going to buy this. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see UTC come out and score on their opening possession or score late in the first quarter to either tie up the game or grab a lead. I would honestly be shocked if Saturday’s game is still competitive at halftime or the third quarter, but a little early momentum by the Mocs wouldn’t surprise me a great deal.
Ben: Sell. The only way Tennessee-Chattanooga takes a lead is if it receives the opening kickoff and puts together a drive that produces a field goal or touchdown. Even if it happens, Tennessee will soon tie it back up and then take the lead shortly after. The Mocs simply don’t have the athletes to seriously compete with the Vols — assuming Tennessee plays with effort.
Buy or Sell: Tennessee forces more than one turnover against the Mocs.
Nathanael: UTC threw two interceptions in their Week 1 match-up with Eastern Illinois, but they didn’t toss a pick against Jacksonville State last week, though they did lose a fumble. Through two games, Tennessee has forced a grand total of one turnover. UT struggled with forcing turnovers last season, but they did force three turnovers against ETSU last year, a comparable opponent to UTC. So I’m actually going to buy this one, especially if both Bryce Thompson and Daniel Bituli play some snaps on defense.
Ben: I’m selling. The two key components to forcing turnovers is being aligned correctly before the snap and getting pressure on the quarterback. Tennessee hasn’t necessarily done a great job of either this season.
Buy or Sell: The Vols will be favored in more than one SEC game this season.
Nathanael: I’ll buy this one. I think Tennessee will be favored against Vanderbilt at the end of the season, and with a freshman QB now at the helm for South Carolina, I think the Vols will actually be slight favorites over the Gamecocks when they come to Neyland Stadium. It may only be a one or two-point advantage by Vegas, but that still counts. Otherwise, I think UT will be the underdog in their other six conference match-ups.
Ben: It depends on how the season goes, but I could see Tennessee being a favorite against Vanderbilt — and that’s it. The Vols won’t be favorites against Florida, Georgia, or Alabama, and I don’t believe they’ll be favorites against Mississippi State, South Carolina, Kentucky, or Missouri. All of those teams are better than Tennessee regardless of where the game is played. If the Vols can upset Florida or Mississippi State, however, things change.
Buy or Sell: Jarrett Guarantano will still be the Vols’ starting QB by the end of October.
Nathanael: If he doesn’t improve after what happened against BYU, he won’t be. But as of right now, I’m very tentatively buying this one. I think Jeremy Pruitt will stick with JG as his starting quarterback for the whole season unless it becomes painfully obvious a change needs to happen or if Guarantano gets hurt. The backups simply aren’t ready to lead a collegiate offense just yet, and that more than anything is why Guarantano has remained the unquestioned starter to this point. But if Guarantano has a disastrous start against Florida or comes out and looks awful against Georgia, Alabama, or Mississippi State, then maybe the Vols will have a different starting signal caller when they host South Carolina at the end of October.
Ben: I’m buying because I don’t believe Jarrett Guarantano is as bad as he has played. Has he played poorly the first two weeks? Absolutely. But he’s capable of leading Tennessee to wins over Florida, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Missouri, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt — assuming his play improves. As Jeremy Pruitt said earlier this week, Guarantano is the quarterback that gives Tennessee the best chance to win. Unless his play completely falls off the face of the planet, he’ll be the starting quarterback the entire season.