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College Football: Tennessee — West Virginia opening line released

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee will open the 2018 season with West Virginia Mountaineers in Charlotte, playing in the Belk Kickoff Classic at Bank of America Stadium. It’ll be a new era for Tennessee football, ushering in the Jeremy Pruitt era along with restored faith in the program. However, the Mountaineers are going to field a pretty good football team next season — or so I think.

West Virginia returns quarterback Will Grier and receiver David Sills, forming one of the most potent passing attacks in all of college football. Grier already has a history against Tennessee, beating the Vols in Gainesville late in the 4th quarter in 2015 as a member of the Florida Gators.

That passing game is going to be a problem for Tennessee, who will lose four contributors at the cornerback position. We’re waiting on national signing day to see what the Vols are going to have at cornerback this year.

The Volunteers will likely be transitioning to more of a 3-4 base defense, which is going to take some time. Each of those facts spells trouble against Dana Holgorsen’s squad, which ranked 13th in the FBS last season in passing yards. With Grier and Sills back, expect that number to rise.

We’ve got an early line on this game from, placing the Mountaineers as 7.5 point favorites over the Volunteers. It’s tough to project what Tennessee will be as Pruitt and his staff flips this roster around.

It’s easy to foresee some growing pains for the defense, but there’s plenty of unknown offensively, too. Tennessee will be replacing three key components on the offensive line, along with running back John Kelly. Quarterback remains a question mark, with limited looks at Jarrett Guarantano and Will McBride.

It may all click with a different voice calling the shots. Who knows? But for now, oddsmakers aren’t buying it, understandably so. Obviously it’s January. Plenty can change here and it undoubtedly will. However, this serves as a starting point for our expectations, at least for the opener.