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 the UAB Blazers in Knoxville. Note: RTI contributor Robert Hughes is filling in for Ben McKee this week.
Buy or Sell: Three different players will take snaps at quarterback for the Vols against UAB.
Nathanael: I’ll buy it, but I’m only going with three, not any more than that. I don’t think Jarrett Guarantano plays in this game unless he absolutely has to for some reason. I think Brian Maurer is good to go, and I think he starts. I would be surprised if Jauan Jennings doesn’t get a couple wildcat QB snaps, and I think JT Shrout will play later in the game or maybe get sprinkled in throughout the game. I think the staff would like to rest Guarantano if possible so they can make sure his wrist fully recovers.
Robert: For me, this seems like an easy buy. All indications point to Brian Maurer being healthy enough to at least see the field in some capacity. Given his great performance against South Carolina, I would think that JT Shrout should see some snaps against UAB, even if it’s in garbage time. Jarrett Guarantano also had a great performance against the Gamecocks before getting hurt, so if he’s ready to go, he may see snaps as well. Not to mention that Jauan Jennings saw his fair share of snaps (and technically got the start at QB) in the wildcat formation. If either Guarantano or Jennings takes at least one snap, that’s your three.
Buy or Sell: The Vols score more than 20 points (which would be the most UAB has allowed this season).
Nathanael: I’ll buy that this happens, but I don’t think we see the Vols completely light up the scoreboard in this game. UAB’s defense is statistically one of the best in the country, but their numbers are a bit skewed. None of the six teams the Blazers have beaten this season are currently .500 or better, and the one team they played that’s above .500 beat them (Western Kentucky, 20-13). Still, though, UAB does have a good defense. I think the Blazers do enough on defense to stymie the Vols for a bit, but I do think UT eclipses the 20-point threshold and could knock on the door of 30 points if they don’t have a couple turnovers or anything.
Robert: Given the uncertainty that has marked Tennessee’s season, it’s hard to guarantee anything. That being said, I’m buying this one. UAB’s defense, which is fifth in total defense in the nation, is good. The Blazers’ opponents, however, have a combined record of just 13-41, and only one of those teams was above .500 (Western Kentucky, who has a record of 5-3). While Tennessee sits at just 3-5 on the season, it seems like the Vols will be the toughest opponent that the Blazers have seen. I don’t necessarily expect the Vols to light it up, but I think a balanced attack and multiple quarterbacks will guide Tennessee to a relatively smooth victory and 30+ points.
Buy or Sell: Tennessee forces at least three turnovers in the game.
Nathanael: Call me optimistic, but I’m going to buy this one. I know the Vols didn’t force any turnovers on defense against South Carolina, but they were on a bit of a turnover binge over the previous few games before that. UAB has been turnover prone this season, especially at the quarterback position. The Blazers have thrown 11 interceptions as a team with starting quarterback Tyler Johnson III having tossed 10 of them on the season. I think the Vols will be opportunistic enough to get a couple turnovers, and I’ll go ahead and say they get three.
Robert: I think Tennessee’s defense will continue to perform at a high level, but I’ll sell this one. Tennessee’s defense has forced at least three turnovers three times thus far, but I don’t think that the Vols will make it a fourth. Tennessee’s defensive line has looked dominant at times in the past few games, so I expect a lot of sacks, just not a ton of turnovers.
Buy or Sell: The Vols score in some other way other than on offense.
Nathanael: Tennessee has had some luck this season scoring non-offensive touchdowns, but UAB is a pretty sound team (other than the interceptions Johnson has thrown). I want to buy this one just based on a gut feeling, but I’ll go ahead and play the percentages here and sell it.
Robert: While scoring on defense or special teams is incredibly exciting, I don’t expect to see a repeat of Tennessee’s performance against South Carolina, where the Vols scored twice on special teams. Marquez Callaway’s punt return for a touchdown last week was just the third of his career and his first in 2019. Blocked punts are extremely rare, so I don’t expect another Daniel Bituli scoop-and-score, either. I’m selling all the way here.
Buy or Sell: UAB totals more passing yards than the Vols.
Nathanael: UAB’s rushing attack has been fairly…meh…this season. They have four different running backs who have totaled 200 rushing yards on the season, but they’ve struggled to find consistent success there. The passing game, meanwhile, has been a more consistent source of big plays and yardage. While the Blazers have certainly had issues with interceptions, they’ve generally been able to pick up yards through the air. Tennessee has too, but I think the Vols may focus more on running in this game. Therefore, I’ll buy that UAB has more passing yards.
Robert: While UAB currently averages 251.9 passing yards per game to Tennessee’s 213.9, it’s hard to say with certainty that the Blazers will total more yards in the air than the Vols. If Tennessee gets an early lead and leans on its running game, however, I could see UAB throwing their way into more yards than the Vols. I’ll buy this one
Buy or Sell: UAB covers the spread (currently 12-point underdogs).
Nathanael: I think it’ll look like for a bit that UAB will be on the path to cover the spread. I think this one starts out ugly and relatively close. In the end, however, I think the Vols win by three scores. So no, I’ll sell that the Blazers cover the spread.
Robert: I’m selling this one. Yes, UAB’s defense is good, but I don’t see the Blazers bringing this game to within two scores. UAB might score some in garbage time, but even then, I think Tennessee cruises comfortably.