Tennessee travels to Fayetteville on Saturday night looking to snap it’s current three-game losing streak.
The Vols (2-3) will be facing Arkansas (2-3) coming off of a bye week, while the Razorbacks fell to No. 7 Texas A&M 42-31 in College Station last Saturday night. Kickoff between Tennessee and Arkansas is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.
Managing editor Ben McKee, as well as RTI contributors Blake Von Hagen and Noah Taylor share their predictions for the Vols’ matchup with the Hogs.
Arkansas is playing inspired football right now. Sam Pittman has the Hogs headed in the right direction and depending on how the rest of the season goes, he may receive quite a few votes. But the Razorbacks aren’t necessarily a good football team. They’re simply exceeding extremely low preseason expectations.
The Hogs are still plenty capable of beating the Vols. Feleipe Franks, Rakeem Boyd, and Treylon Burks form quite the offensive trio that will give Tennessee a handful. I still think the Vols win, however, because of Arkansas’ inconsistent play along the offensive line.
I also expect for Tennessee’s offensive line to win its matchup with an Arkansas defensive front that has struggled to stop the run to this point in the season. Tennessee’s o-line has underperformed, but its as healthy as its been all season, and I believe we’ll see them have quite the impact. Eric Gray and Ty Chandler will have plenty of holes to run through.
At the end of the day, Tennessee has more depth and talent than Arkansas. The Vols will win as long as Jarrett Guarantano takes care of the football and the offensive line takes care of business.
Pick: Tennessee, 27-23
MVP: Tennessee’s offensive line
Tennessee’s offensive line has a golden opportunity to put the team on its back and lead the Vols to victory. Eric Gray and Ty Chandler will have a big game against a struggling Arkansas rush defense courtesy of the big uglies up front.
The betting market always corrects itself, which is a good sign for Tennessee in this game. Arkansas has covered in all five of its games thus far, which means it will almost assuredly fail to cover in one of its next few contests. If this is the game the Razorbacks’ streak ends, it will result in a win for the Vols. Tennessee is coming off a bye week and will be healthier than it was in its previous few games. The offensive line is going to be the key in this game—if it plays well, the offense will dictate the tempo on Saturday night.
Tennessee is teetering on the edge right now. This game will likely swing the pendulum one way or the other. The Vols should be able to take advantage of the extra week of prep and run the ball with some success. Arkansas is overrated right now and is going to come back to earth in the second half of the season. Jeremy Pruitt has to have his team ready to play in this game or it spells trouble going forward.
Pick: Tennessee, 24-20
MVP: Tennessee RB Eric Gray
Gray has been one of the bright spots this season. He is averaging 4.5 yards per carry on 79 attempts and has taken over as the bell cow back on the team. Gray will be the primary beneficiary of solid offensive line play on Saturday night.
After a tumultuous couple of weeks for Tennessee-starting with the historic loss to Kentucky and ending with a blowout defeat against Alabama-all eyes will be on how the Vols handles the bye week.
Arkansas was a game that most people would have penciled in as a Tennessee win in the offseason, but the Razorbacks under first year head coach Sam Pittman aren’t the SEC doormat they were a year ago under Chad Morris. If it weren’t for a controversial no call that led to a loss at Auburn back in October, Arkansas could have one more win on its resume. The Razorbacks played Georgia close for three quarters to open the season and have wins over Mississippi State and Ole Miss.
For Arkansas, the defense under first year defensive coordinator and former Missouri head coach Barry Odom has been its trademark, with Florida transfer quarterback Feleipe Franks playing efficient enough. But that defense hit a road block last week against No. 7 Texas A&M in a 42-31 loss where the Aggies were more in control than the final indicates.
Tennessee’s offense has struggled since the second half of the Georgia game, so finding ways to score on Arkansas’ improved defense will be a challenge.
Look for a low scoring game with the Vols getting a win out of the bye week.
Pick: Tennessee, 20-13
MVP: Tennessee LB Henry To’o To’o