It was a rough opening week for the RTT pickers, with all eight failing to predict Appalachian State covering the spread in a 20-13 overtime loss to the Volunteers. Fittingly, Closest to the Pin is Hunter, whose 35-13 prediction—15 points off on both the margin and the total—didn’t even make it into last week’s article, thanks to an editorial oversight. It was that kind of week. This week, both Tennessee and our staff pickers try to get back on track for the Battle at Bristol, with the Virginia Tech Hokies, behind new coach Justin Fuente, making the trip across the Tennessee line to face off with the Vols. Will the Vols rebound from a shaky week one performance? Let’s see what our staff has to say.
Incipient (1-0 straight up, 0-1 against the spread): With long-time defense coordinator Bud Foster remaining at Virginia Tech, coupled with the energy from a new man at the top, there's reason to believe that Tennessee's offense won't have an easy time this week. The Hokies showed no problem stopping their FCS cupcake, allowing just 160 yards last week against Turner Gill's Liberty Flames. If the Vols offense plays like it did last week, Tennessee is going to struggle. On the other hand, the Vols showed last season that they could do damage even against good defenses. Was last week just a wake-up call? If so, the Tennessee offense should do enough to separate themselves from a Hokies squad still in just the second week of Justin Fuente's tenure. Tennessee 30 Virginia Tech 17
Will (1-0 straight up, 0-1 against the spread): Will Fuente really try to go 100 MPH against us? As bad as Tennessee's offense looked for most of the Appalachian State game, a group trying to learn how to play that fast against a talented, aggressive defense could be trouble for Virginia Tech's offense. When Butch Jones was first installing his offense the Vols went to Oregon to play another fast-paced team with a talent advantage. The Vols went three-and-out six times and Oregon scored 59 points. Team 120 won't be that aggressive offensively, and if our offensive line problems are real Bud Foster will highlight them for the world to see. But I think the Vols will have more than enough scoring opportunities, VT's offense will spend the night frustrated, and Tennessee will take advantage of enough of those opportunities to reduce the sweat factor in the fourth quarter. Tennessee 30 Virginia Tech 13
Joel (1-0 straight up, 0-1 against the spread): Tennessee 31 Virginia Tech 20.
Chris (1-0 straight up, 0-1 against the spread): Landing on the 8 PM game on ABC isn't exactly much of a step down in intensity from last week. Now add another 50,000 people.
I think there's a fair argument that most people in Knoxville were looking ahead to Week 2 (that's good!); on the other hand, it doesn't seem like the staff does a great job shielding expectations from the players (that's bad!). I'm not going to predict a loss, but this feels like "weirdo game that Tennessee wins but we're not really happy about, again.” Tennessee 17 Virginia Tech 10
Hunter (1-0 straight up, 0-1 against the spread): Volundore is asking the right questions and none of us have definitive answers. For this week, I'll assume the defense continues to improve and DeBord remembers that it's legal for the quarterback to run. If for some reason we see more than one Tennessee quarterback, all bets are off. Tennessee 24 Virginia Tech 10
Volundore (1-0 straight up, 0-1 against the spread): I have a lot of questions after what I saw in Week 1. Is App State better than we gave them credit for? Are the Vols worse than we thought? Did Tennessee just have an off night? Can they bounce back? An ABC prime time game against a name opponent will provide ample opportunity to prove that Opening Night was a fluke. The Hokies were exceedingly mediocre last year on defense (59th in points allowed, 61st in yards per play), so if the OL and play-calling improve, there are points to be scored. On the other side, will the Vols' defense be able to contain Jerod Evans after his 4 TD debut last week? Fuente can coach offense (Memphis was 11th in PPG last year at 40.2 ppg), but like Dave Clawson, he needs more time to fire on all cylinders. Tennessee 28 Virginia Tech 13
Justin (1-0 straight up, 0-1 against the spread): It seems UT fans only have questions after the home opener, and I count myself among that lot with a few questions of my own: How long have we been hearing about and focused on Bristol? Seemingly since Butch was hired; it's time to play the game. How confused is the fanbase by last week's performance? On a scale of "very confused" to "not worried, bro" I'd say were teetering on "Dear [insert deity of your choice here], why do you torment me so?!?!?" Final question, which I take to be the most important one: How angry is this team? My guess is that while Butch Jones' teams always give the perfect automated, robotic answers to the media's questions, this team is seething and ready to hit some Hokies to shut the doubters up. I expect a dominant performance by the defense with the return of Jalen Reeves Maybin. On Offense? That's too complicated a question for me to answer. Tennessee 27 Virginia Tech 10
Trey (1-0 straight up, 0-1 against the spread): WELP:
- I'd expect to see Bud Foster run something like the bear front packages he ran against Ohio State last year. If there's no downfield passing game and/or the line struggles, without serious adjustments (EXECUTE BETTER doesn't count) we could be looking at chaos in the backfield.
- Justin Fuente offenses tend to put up points :|
- This will be Jerod Evan's second start
- Dictionary.com defines a "hokie" as "an emasculated turkey."
- We've been waiting on this season for 10 years. WHATEVS. I'm mainlining the Kool-Aid straight to flavor country. As a wise Korvax scientist once told me, aldfj jgf sdljkw fwbadnfd nnd slkwd fjnldnf! Tennessee 34 Virginia Tech 13
Rocky Top Talk Staff Average (1-0 straight up, 0-1 against the spread): Tennessee 28 Virginia Tech 13
Vegas: Tennessee -11. Over/under 54. Tennessee 32 Virginia Tech 21