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 their SEC East rival, the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs.
Buy or Sell: Jeremy Pruitt said the Vols may play all three scholarship quarterbacks on Saturday. Does that actually happen?
Nathanael: I’m selling it. I think that was purely gamesmanship on Pruitt’s part. Unless both Brian Maurer and Jarrett Guarantano get hurt or something drastic happens, I think you’ll only see two QBs at most for the Vols on Saturday.
Ben: Sell. I believe we’ll see Brian Maurer start and unless an injury occurs, the only other quarterback to play will be Jarrett Guarantano. For whatever reason, Maurer is just further along right now than JT Shrout. The staff is clearly higher than Maurer for a reason, which is why we’re likely to see a change at quarterback against Georgia.
Buy or Sell: Brian Maurer not only starts, but he plays the entire game at QB vs. Georgia.
Nathanael: I’m going to go against my better judgement and actually buy this one. The sentiment seems to be that Maurer will start, and I don’t see what Guarantano does better or differently enough to warrant him seeing the field unless Maurer gets hurt or plays poorly. Maurer is the better runner, so you’re not going to bring JG in to run the ball. Maurer has a good arm, and if he’s starting, the staff clearly feels comfortable with him passing. Unless Maurer just plays really poorly or gets hurt, I don’t really see a reason to pull him in favor of Guarantano.
My gut still says both players see the field on Saturday, but logically I don’t see why they should unless Maurer doesn’t perform well.
Ben: Sell. Maurer will start, but he won’t play the whole game. Maurer simply hasn’t made enough plays for me to sit here and feel confident enough in that against the No. 3 team in the country. There’s a reason it’s taken the coaching staff so long to hop on board with playing a true freshman. Maurer may prove to be more productive against the Bulldogs, but I believe we’ll see Guarantano for at least one series.
Buy or Sell: The Vols hold Georgia under 250 rushing yards.
Nathanael: I know 250 rushing yards is a very high number, but I’m absolutely selling this one. Georgia hadn’t been held below 250 rushing yards till their last game against No. 9 Notre Dame, and the Vols’ defense isn’t anywhere close to being as good as the Irish’s. Tennessee’s defensive line has been a major disappointment this season, and Georgia’s offensive line is probably the best O-line in the entire country. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Dawgs total 300-plus rushing yards. They did that against Vanderbilt in Week 1.
Ben: Sell. Georgia’s offensive line is just too good, and D’Andre Swift is the best running back the Vols will face this season. They’re averaging over 250 rushing yards per game, and Swift is averaging nearly eight yards a carry. Tennessee’s defensive front, particularly its defensive line, isn’t necessarily equipped to slow down the Bulldogs’ offensive line. It could be a record-setting type of performance for the Dawgs on the ground.
Buy or Sell: Tennessee will score two touchdowns against Georgia.
Nathanael: Nope, selling this one, too. Unless the Vols can get a defensive touchdown or a special teams score, I don’t see the offense scoring more than one touchdown. In fact, they’ll be lucky to get one and not have to settle for field goals whenever they can get close to the red zone (which may not be often). Georgia has given up four touchdowns all season, and two of those came from Notre Dame in their last game. Opponents have only gotten into the red zone seven times all season against the Bulldogs, which is tied for the fewest in the SEC.
Ben: Sell. I think they’ll score a single touchdown. Georgia’s defense has been dominant, and with plenty of veterans in its defensive front, the Bulldogs will make life hard on a young offensive line and a young quarterback. The Vols couldn’t score a single touchdown against Florida. Against Georgia, the Vols won’t be scoring two touchdowns unless one is a defensive or special teams score.
Buy or Sell: Eli Wolf catches a touchdown pass against his old team.
Nathanael: Even though he hasn’t caught a touchdown yet this season, I’m going to buy this. Georgia has much better weapons in the passing game than Wolf, but I think Kirby Smart hates Tennessee with a burning passion. I think Eli Wolf and Smart alike would like to rub it in the faces of Vol fans and Tennessee’s coaches by getting Wolf to score in this game. Somehow, some way, I think Smart makes sure it happens.
Ben: Buy. Eli Wolf is having a good season through four games. Wolf has caught seven passes for 98 yards, and against the Vols, he’ll catch his first touchdown of the season. Frankly, I believe Georgia draws up a scoring play for him to rub it in the face of Tennessee fans. Georgia may have a heavy emphasis on running the football. however, which would limit Wolf’s chances of scoring.
Buy or Sell: The Vols win more than 3 of their remaining 8 games this season.
Nathanael: I may go “push” on this one. I think three more wins this season is actually pretty reasonable due more to the fact that aside from Georgia, Alabama, and probably Missouri, the rest of UT’s schedule just isn’t all that daunting. I believe Tennessee should be able to beat UAB, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky, and I still think they can defeat South Carolina at the end of October. Their contest against Mississippi State next weekend is also winnable.
If I have to choose one or the other, I’ll say “sell” and say UT is more likely to win less than three of their remaining games than they are to win more than three. Tennessee just hasn’t surprised me in a good way in years, so it’s hard to feel too positive when picking between two sides.
Ben: I’m buying this not because I’ve seen something positive out of Tennessee, but rather, I haven’t seen enough out of Mississippi State, South Carolina, UAB, Kentucky, Missouri, or Vanderbilt that tells me the Vols don’t have a chance in any of those games. The Vols will beat UAB, Vanderbilt, and one of Mississippi State or Kentucky. Each of those teams have as many problems as Tennessee does, and I don’t believe the Vols are as bad as their record indicates. It’ll take Tennessee receiving much better quarterback play if it’s going to happen.