Game 6 is as good a place as any to lick your wounds. After whatever we want to call that Florida game (no really, take your pick), UT-Chattanooga slides into town. They'll punch in at 2-2, losing a close game to Central Michigan and a closer one to Jacksonville State before winning their last two. I bring this up because save for the dual-fandom types I actually had no idea what UT-Chattanooga has done this season, so I'm here to bring the news to you.
So, with that being said, I'm gonna skip ahead, call this a win, and set up a six step program to bring Tennessee back to the realm of the competent. One step at a time.
WHY YES, WE'RE STARTING WITH THE OFFENSIVE LINE
How'd you know? The line should be faced with a slightly easier task than the last few weeks: stop Davis Tull and Derrick Lott. The duo has 15.5 TFL on the season, although it bears noting that Central Michigan-who is also terrible at avoiding TFL-allowed 6 TFL in total, four from these guys. (And yes, the fact we're comparing Tennessee's offensive line with Central Michigan's in any way is not a good sign.)
So, step 1: no negative yardage plays, including sacks. That's easier said than done, since Tennessee's allowed 3.6 sacks per game so far. It is, however, step 1, because this will be one of the few times where we'll enjoy a talent advantage against our opponent on the line. Act like it.
Step 2: get some kind of running game. Even with Jalen Hurd, Tennessee's still under 3 yards per carry on the season and haven't run for even 4 yards a carry against anyone. The Florida rushing stats look like LOLNOPE. Asking for 5 yards per carry the rest of the season is likely a fool's errand, but 5 yards per carry in this game isn't.
WHAT ABOUT BIG PLAYS
Will touched on this earlier this week, but Tennessee's big-play ability is sorely lacking. This happens when the running game is virtually non-existent, forcing a series of swing passes to stay on schedule, and the quarterback's touch on deep passes has been suspect all season. Catch-and-run is doable, but then Marquez North/Pig Howard/Von Pearson are going to get a lot of practice trying to break tackles.
With that being said, Justin Worley's gotten a bit better with medium-to-long-range passes lately. (This is a step up, but keep in mind this is entirely on a relative scale.) 10+ yard plays shouldn't be a huge deal, but truly big plays require something we haven't seen yet on a consistent basis.
There really isn't a way to scheme big plays, though. If you can't consistently put it up to your receivers and your offensive line hasn't seen eight yards downfield except when they're on the punt blocking unit, how are you supposed to get big plays?
So, some quick math: the Vols have per-game averages of 13 plays of 10+ yards, 4.2 plays of 20+ yards, and 1.2 plays of 30+ yards. So, let's up some goals.
Step 3: 18 plays of 10+ yards, 8 plays of 20+ yards, 5 plays of 30+ yards. Baby steps, mostly borne out the talent disparity.
STOP THE DUAL THREATS
Sure, this isn't the offense's problem (other than they don't have one), but it's worth touching on. Dual-threat QBs have been Tennessee's bane for years going into 2014, but early returns were positive until the Treon Harris curveball. (His followup? Not nearly as strong.) Jacob Heusman is another dual-threat type, but not explosive (6.5 YPA, 4.2 YPC). In theory, stopping him won't be a big deal, and it's more practice playing against a team that I'm assuming will actually zone read.
Step 4: don't allow a mobile QB to kill you. Keep Heusman contained and get off the field on third down.
This has been a problem lately; how do you put down an opponent who's on the mat? UTC has struggled all season; by all rights Tennessee should put them on the mat early. That means finishing drives and stymieing UTC. Of the two, I trust the latter more, which means the steps to competence come from the offense.
Step 5: no field goals or turnovers inside the 20. Get it in the red zone, get it in the end zone. Learn how to finish.
Oh, and Step 6: make sure nobody critical gets injured. It's already hard enough as it stands now.