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RTI Game Predictions: Tennessee vs. UTSA

Photo By Emma Corona/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee football is looking to bounce back from its SEC opening loss at Florida when it hosts UTSA to Neyland Stadium Saturday afternoon. The Vols are three-touchdown favorites against their American Athletic Conference foe.

Each week, the RTI team will provide game predictions for Tennessee’s weekly opponent.

We move on to the UTSA Road Runners.
More From RTI: Tennessee Preparing For Two Quarterbacks But Focused On Internal Improvement

Jack Foster

Admittedly, I was surprised at how poorly Tennessee played against Florida last week.

There’s no doubt they have a lot to work, but I expect a solid bounce back week against UTSA.

The Roadrunners aren’t as good as we thought they were coming into the season, and if they don’t have quarterback Frank Harris, I expect Tennessee to cover the now 20-point spread. If Harris plays, UTSA will be more competitive, but Tennessee is vastly different at home than they are on the road.

The defense will play better, we should see the offensive line play better if Cooper Mays is a full go, and Joe Milton will be comfortable.

Tennessee won’t be perfect. They’re not going to fix everything over night. But their dominant performance against UTSA will leave Vol fans a lot more optimistic about how the rest of the season will go than they are right now.

Prediction: Tennessee 41, UTSA 17

Ric Butler

My predictions have not been very good this year BUT I am (somewhat) confident that this will finally be the moment my luck turns around. Much like the start to my predictions, both Tennessee and UTSA are teams that have certainly left meat on the bone through the first three weeks of the season.

Tennessee, on one hand, is coming off of a loss to Florida in which the offense only scored a measly 16 points. UTSA, on the other hand, has really struggled to get the engine moving at times while dealing with a barrage of injuries, particularly to quarterback Frank Harris Jr.

While this is a bounce-back opportunity for the Vols team, Tennessee will need to score points much more efficiently than they did against Florida last weekend. I really think that getting back to scoring points could do a significant amount in helping this team find some confidence and swagger after an unexpected loss early into the season.

Give me Tennessee in a game that never necessarily feels like a worry for Vol fans watching the game, but it’s clear to tell it won’t be a three-touchdown blowout by any stretch.

Prediction: Tennessee 33, UTSA 24

Ryan Schumpert

Tennessee enters its matchup against UTSA desperate for not only a victory but a strong performance after two straight lackluster games including its SEC opening loss at Florida. The Vols play five straight SEC games, with an open date mixed in, following the non conference matchup so this is Tennessee’s last chance to show real improvement before the gauntlet begins.

UTSA has been a tough team to figure out this week. They don’t appear to be the team they looked like in the preseason when they just missed the AP Top 25 and were a popular New Years Six Bowl game pick. But this is still a solid group of five team and Tennessee’s hardest non-conference opponent in my estimation. There’s two important questions surrounding the Road Runners entering this game. First, will starting quarterback Frank Harris return to the field after missing last week’s game against Army? The veteran quarterback is the heart of UTSA’s team and while backup Eddie Lee Marburger performed well last week it’s still a different team with him behind center. Secondly, which UTSA run defense shows up? The Road Runners were good against the run the first two weeks before Army ran all over them a week ago. If Tennessee faces a struggling run defense than the Road Runners will provide little actual threat to upset Tennessee.

But as Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said Thursday, this game is more about Tennessee and its internal focus as it looks to improve ahead of the heart of SEC play. Offensively, Tennessee needs to avoid the prolonged lulls its had in each of its first three games. They may be able to lean on their rushing attack but getting Joe Milton III going with some consistency is much more important. Defensively, Tennessee needs to play with much better gap assignment and tackle better than they did a week ago. I think we’ll see both of those things this week. I’m less confident about the sustained offensive success. Nevertheless, Tennessee picks up its third win of the season.

Prediction: Tennessee 34, UTSA 20

Matt Reed

UTSA is a solid, veteran team. Tennessee probably won’t know which QB it is facing until game time. Last week snapped Frank Harris’ streak of starting 36 consecutive games for the Roadrunners at quarterback. Harris is battling through a toe injury, a pesky ailment for a mobile QB. Don’t discount even a banged-up Frank Harris though. The super senior has accounted for over 100 total touchdowns in his career. In his absence, Tennessee would see Eddie Lee Marburger. The sophomore looked solid throwing the ball against Army, but does not have Harris’ mobility outside the pocket. Under either scenario, Tennessee has to put pressure on the Roadrunners.

As highlighted earlier, the Vols are not forcing turnovers like they were last season. On offense, the lack of pace so far this season was also highlighted. I expect Tennessee to try to speed things up significantly tomorrow. This coaching staff shows no signs of wavering in belief of Joe Milton. Outside of one horrific interception, Milton wasn’t bad against Florida. However, there is no denying this offense just has not run as smoothly under #7.

Tennessee was never able to get in rhythm after its first drive last week. A big part of that was the Vols were never able to establish their run game in the Swamp. I expect that to change tomorrow against a Roadrunner defense that was run over by Army last week. That run game will set the pace for an improved Tennessee offense on Saturday, and open up a few big plays downfield. I don’t expect Tennessee to answer all of its questions on Saturday, but I think the Vols play a much cleaner game of football against UTSA. At some point, Tennessee will pull away from the Roadrunners, as pace of play and talent eventually wear UTSA down. The Vols win the turnover battle, and carry a little momentum into a big game against South Carolina after an eventual score of Vols 38, Roadrunners 17

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