Tennessee's offense versus Nebraska's defense. Nebraska's defense appears to be good, but not elite, both versus the run and against the pass. The odd thing is that although Tennessee's offensive national statistical rankings don't suggest that it is especially potent in either the run or pass game, you sort of get the feeling that they're pretty good, don't you? So maybe the Vols will struggle to overcome defensive resistance at times or all the time against the Cornhuskers. Or maybe Josh Dobbs and John Kelly will run wild and Josh Malone and Jajuan Jennings will haul down a couple of bombs for touchdowns just for the fun of it. Who knows? Presenting . . . the 2016 Tennessee Volunteers! Exciting!
Tennessee's defense versus Nebraska's offense. On the other side of the ball, the stats seem to suggest that Nebraska's okay at running the ball but not particularly effective in the passing game, and that will only be exacerbated if their quarterback can't go. But wait! The Vols can sort of have some success on defense at limiting the total amount of passing yards but can't seem to stop anyone day-tripping to the end zone with the ball in their hands. Maybe Tennessee's defense reached the absolute bottom of the barrel in November, ran out of the proverbial gas, and simply had nothing much more resistant than paper, Elmer's, and hope the last few games of the regular season. Maybe they've re-filled the barrel and topped off the tank and are once again ready to tackle the . . . well, ready to tackle. Or maybe November shined a spotlight on an issue that takes longer than a few bowl practices to fix. Who knows? It's thrilling!
In the red zone and on the scoreboard. If you were going to point at something that wasn't broken from the Vols' back third of the season, you'd probably settle on the offense's ability to score points. There was a slight hiccup in the Vandy game, but Tennessee did manage to put some satisfying numbers on the scoreboard: 55 against Tennessee Tech (I know, but wait), 49 against Kentucky, 63 against Missouri, and even 34 in the aforementioned hiccup against the Commodores. So they should continue to score points. The Cornhuskers, on the other hand, haven't score more than 28 points since October 1 against Illinois. They were scoreboard-explosive against Wyoming and Fresno State in the first two games of the season, but other than that, nope. If they get over 40 points in the Music City Bowl, I won't be surprised, but the Tennessee defense will most likely be to blame, and although that could happen, I like Tennessee's scoreboard resume better than Nebraska's.
Tennessee 42, Nebraska 38.
The tables for this week are below. But as always, a quick note on strength of schedule first. The Vols hold the nation's third most-difficult schedule, while Nebraska's is ranked 68th. Here's a handy look at the relative strength of schedules, per S&P+. Wins are in green, losses are in yellow.
|1 (Alabama: L; 49-10)|
|3 (Ohio State: L; 62-3)|
|16 (Wisconsin L; 23-17)|
|19 (Texas A&M: L; 45-38)|
|20 (Iowa: L; 40-10)|
|24 (Virginia Tech: W; 45-24)|
|32 (App State: W; 20-13)|
|37 (Minnesota: W; 24-17)|
|42 (Florida: W; 38-28)|
|48 (Indiana: W; 27-22)|
|49 (Northwestern: W; 24-13)|
|59 (Kentucky: W; 49-36)|
|64 (Missouri: W; 63-37)|
|66 (Georgia: W; 34-31)|
|68 (Wyoming: W; 52-17)|
|69 (Oregon: W; 35-32)|
|75 (Vanderbilt: L; 45-34)|
|83 (Ohio: W; 28-19)|
|87 (Maryland: W; 28-7)|
|93 (South Carolina: L; 24-21)|
|98 (Illinois: W; 31-16)|
|108 (Purdue: W; 27-14)|
|112 (Fresno State: W; 43-10)|
So basically, the Cornhuskers' 2016 regular-season win-loss record looks pretty much the same as the Vols' -- a stomping at the hands of an elite Top 3 team, close-but-no-cigar against Top 20, and taking care of business against the rest. Except, of course, that Tennessee also lost to two bad teams late that it should have easily taken care of. So if the Vols do what they are capable of, the Music City Bowl should be a good game that could go either way. But if the Vols suffer another lapse, we could be in for trouble.
Processing Tennessee vs. Nebraska.
|Tennessee||Nebraska||Comps||Result against Comps||Guess|
|Next Worst||Next Best||Next Worst||Next Best|
|Tennessee rushing offense vs. Nebraska rushing defense||203.2||141.0||Georgia||Appalachian State||Georgia||Appalachian State||140|
|Tennessee passing offense vs. Nebraska passing defense||234.1||209.6||Kentucky||South Carolina||Kentucky||South Carolina||190|
|Tennessee rushing defense vs. Nebraska rushing offense||231.7||178.2||Ohio||Virginia Tech||Ohio||Virginia Tech||180|
|Tennessee passing defense vs. Nebraska passing offense||228.5||207.9||South Carolina||Florida||South Carolina||Florida||230|
|Tennessee scoring offense vs. Nebraska scoring defense||36.3||22.8||Texas A&M||Virginia Tech||Texas A&M||Virginia Tech||42|
|Tennessee scoring defense vs. Nebraska scoring offense||29.3||26.8||Vanderbilt||Appalachian State||Vanderbilt||Appalachian State||35|
Processing Nebraska vs. Tennessee.
|Nebraska||Tennessee||Comps||Result against Comps||Guess|
|Next Worst||Next Best||Next Worst||Next Best|
|Nebraska rushing offense vs. Tennessee rushing defense||178.2||231.7||Purdue||Illinois||Purdue||Illinois||180|
|Nebraska passing offense vs. Tennessee passing defense||207.9||228.5||Wyoming||Minnesota||Wyoming||Minnesota||230|
|Nebraska rushing defense vs. Tennessee rushing offense||141.0||203.2||Minnesota||Wisconsin||Minnesota||Wisconsin||210|
|Nebraska passing defense vs. Tennessee passing offense||209.6||234.1||Wyoming||Northwestern||Wyoming||Northwestern||230|
|Nebraska scoring offense vs. Tennessee scoring defense||26.8||29.3||Fresno State||Maryland||Fresno State||Maryland||35|
|Nebraska scoring defense vs. Tennessee scoring offense||22.8||36.3||Wyoming||Ohio State||Wyoming||Ohio State||40|
So . . .
Tennessee rushing yards 170, passing yards 210, points 42.
Nebraska rushing yards 180, passing yards 230, points 38.