After suffering a monumental upset to start the season, Tennessee’s football program likely isn’t taking any remaining opponents lightly for the remainder of the 2019 season. But since the Vols have fallen victim to a massive underdog once this year, they’re viewed as a prime suspect to lose to another underdog this season.
Brad Crawford of 247Sports put together a list of teams that should be on “upset alert” heading into their Week 10 match-ups this weekend. One of the teams included on Crawford’s list is Tennessee.
“Could this be a letdown spot for the Vols coming off the big win against South Carolina?” Crawford writes. “Considering UAB has won 17 of its past 21 games under Bill Clark, this one has upset alert written all over it. Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt is making sure his guys know UAB is coming into Neyland Stadium with one goal, something BYU and Georgia State have already accomplished this season in Knoxville.”
The Vols began the season with a 38-30 loss to Sun Belt opponent Georgia State. The Panthers entered the game as 24.5-point underdogs, but they did they unthinkable and beat Tennessee inside Neyland Stadium.
After that game, the Vols were favored by three points over BYU, but Tennessee couldn’t pull off that victory, either, falling to the Cougars 29-26 in double-overtime.
Tennessee would lose two of their next three games after that, falling to 1-4 on the season before finally getting back on track with a 20-10 win over Mississippi State. After a 35-13 loss to Alabama, the Vols blew past South Carolina in the second half this past Saturday, scoring 24 unanswered points in a 41-21 win.
Now that the Vols are hitting a bit of a rhythm and with three pivotal SEC contests still remaining this season, UAB looks like they’re in an ideal spot to catch Tennessee off guard. Especially when you consider how good the Blazers have been this season.
UAB enters Saturday’s game with a 6-1 record on the year. The Blazers have one of the best defenses in the FBS statistically, ranking 11th in points allowed per game, fifth in total yards allowed a game, eighth in rushing yards allowed per game, seventh in passing yards allowed per game, and sixth in third down defense.
Some of those numbers might want to be taken with a grain of salt, though.
The Blazers have only played one team this season currently with a winning record, and UAB lost to that team, falling 20-13 to Western Kentucky. Every other team on UAB’s schedule so far has a losing record, and most of them have been pretty terrible this season. The Blazers have beaten FCS opponent Alabama State (3-4), Akron (0-8), South Alabama (1-7), Rice (0-8), UTSA (3-4), and Old Dominion (1-7).
That notwithstanding, Tennessee is better served being extra cautious for Saturday’s game rather than overlooking the Blazers. The Vols, after all, have a losing record themselves at 3-5 on the year.
Tennessee enters Saturday’s game as a 12-point favorite over UAB, but head coach Jeremy Pruitt has already warned his team that the Blazers present a “tremendous challenge” this weekend.
“We have a tremendous challenge this week,” Pruitt said of UAB this week. “Our guys have to get in here and get focused. We have to find a way to play our best football on Saturday night.”
Right now, the Vols appear to have finally turned a corner, and the Tennessee team that has showed up the last three weeks looks vastly different than the one that lost to Georgia State to start the season.
Still, anything can happen in college football, and Pruitt has likely warned his team all week about the upset-minded Blazers.
Kick-off for Saturday’s game will be at 7:00 PM Eastern in Neyland Stadium.