The Vols take on East Tennessee State inside Neyland Stadium on Saturday and our staff predicted the outcome of the game for your reading (and gambling) pleasure.
According to Las Vegas, Tennessee is currently a 30.5-point favorite and the over/under is 47.5. Let’s get to it…
Celina Summers (@CelinaSummers):
One last week for the Vols to work out the kinks before opening the SEC season against arch-rival Florida. Also, I might add, just five days before I return to Knoxville for the first time in several years–not that my trip has anything to do with UT football but…you know. The Miners have a fairly abysmal passing game, and their run game’s nothing to write home about either. Last week, UNLV hung 52 on them, while UTEP eked out about 120 yards passing and about the same rushing. So is this going to be a difficult game for the Vols? No, probably not.
Let me put it this way. It’s been 628 days since the Cleveland Browns last won a game. It’s been 651 days since UTEP last won a game. Last week, I joked with Charlie Burris that he should have let me go with UT 2000 ETSU 10. I’m kind of feeling the same way this week, to be honest. Should be an easy warm-up before the Swamp Lizards come to town.
John Monroe (@MinisterofD):
The Vols got back on track last week with an expected beating of ETSU. After a slow start, Tennessee kicked into high gear and pulled away from the Bucs. This week, the University of Texas El Paso rolls into town. UTEP brings along with them a familiar face by the way of offensive coordinator Mike “Chico” Canales, the 2017 quarterback coach for Tennessee. The Miners, who are coming off of a 52-24 loss to UNLV, shouldn’t be too much of a problem for the Vols. UTEP is currently in the middle of a 14-game losing streak and considered to be one of the worst teams in Division 1-A. UNLV was able to rack up over 400 yards of rushing offense on the Miners, so expect the Vols’ growing young stable of backs to get plenty of work and keep the clock running. The important thing in this game will be added confidence in the O-line and getting out with no injuries on either side of the ball. Look for Tennessee, much like last week, to get some younger guys extra playing time and salt this one away, as the yearly grudge match with the Gators looms just a week away.
Jordan Burns (@VolSportsTalkJB):
Tennessee more than took care of business last weekend. The Vols, although they struggled early, destroyed ETSU 59-3. It gave UT some much needed confidence and a great chance to patch up some things. The running game evolved a little bit and the passing defense looked more crisp. Yes, it was ETSU, but execution is execution. The Vols simply looked smoother. The defense as a whole, exemplified what Jeremy Pruitt wants to bring on defense. Stingy and opportunistic.
This Saturday, the Big Orange gets another chance to improve things as they host UTEP. This is a game that the Vols should win with ease yet again. And they should look better all around. Pruitt, however, did not sound happy in Wednesday’s press conference, as he called out player leadership in practice. This could just be Pruitt pulling a Nick Saban tactic, in which he says things to keep his players crisp and always feeling like there’s room to improve.
However, it is very likely that this squad does actually lack leadership. This was a huge problem under Butch Jones, and was a prime reason why Tennessee never managed to punch a ticket to Atlanta. Pruitt does appear to have the type of attitude and mentality to fix that, but that will take time. Needless to say, Tennessee needs to find leaders quickly, as the Gators come to town next Saturday.
All of this being said, give me the Vols in this one by a bunch. It may start out a bit sluggish, due to the fact that Florida is just around the corner, and the players are very much aware of it. This does set up for a potentially frustrating first quarter and a half or so. But at the end of the day, UTEP is simply not a good football program by any metric. Tennessee takes care of business and turns their attention to Florida.
Big Orange with a big victory.
Matthew Dossett (@MatthewD9999):
The Vols enter Saturday with the opportunity to iron out deficiencies before the Florida Gators roll into Knoxville. Tennessee takes on the NCAA bottom dwellers that are the UTEP Miners. UTEP is arguably the worst team in D-1 ball. In their first two ballgames, they were run out of the building by Northern Arizona and UNLV. This is a contest that the Vols should win handily. Last week against ETSU, there were definitely some positives that can be carried over to this week. Guarantano and Chryst looked fairly crisp throwing the rock and they should be able to do the same Saturday. Look for UT to step on UTEP’s throat early and insert Chryst again in mop up duty.
I’ll definitely be looking for the offensive line to to make strides. If the o-line cannot manhandle ETSU or UTEP, then how in the world are they going to block the likes of Florida, Georgia, Bama, Auburn, etc. I think that Jeremy Banks will shine again, getting the lions’ share of the carries after last week. I think Coach Pruitt is saving Ty Chandler, who has been suffering from concussion symptoms, for the Florida game. Although it is possible he could get some touches, I think Pruitt will to an extent, keep the Ferrari in the garage.
A calling card of Pruitt’s defenses are takeaways. I’ll say that the Vols will be opportunistic, forcing three or more turnovers. Let’s face it, this game is a dress rehearsal for the Florida game. There is a problem if the Vols do not throttle the Miners. Look for UT to hit the gas pedal from the jump. It should be a blowout and I think it will be a blowout.
Charlie Burris (@Charlie_Burris):
Do I really need to write about this game? Bring on the Gators. Vols by a bunch.