Think of it this way, Tennessee fans: You can’t lose this weekend. The Volunteers get a bye week to lick their wounds and try to prepare for a potential upset over the Auburn Tigers next Saturday. It won’t be easy, but a full week of rest and planning will serve them well.
That also means that you might not have much else on tap for Saturday. If you’re still intent on tuning in to college football, we’ve compiled a viewing guide for your interests below. Listed are past opponents, future opponents, and intriguing Top 25 matchups, all with a recommendation on who Tennessee fans should cheer for. The marquee contests aren’t plentiful this week, but there’s still a fair amount of matchups worth your time.
#9 West Virginia vs. Kansas: The Mountaineers gave their fanbase a heart attack last week when they almost let Texas Tech complete a 25-point comeback. Thankfully for West Virginia, the Red Raiders threw a pick-six late in the fourth quarter that effectively ended it. It wasn’t all that impressive of a victory, considering West Virginia’s offense went stale in the second half against a paltry defense. They won’t have that problem against Kansas. Always love to see the underdog prosper, but West Virginia needs to keep winning to show that Tennessee simply got an unlucky draw for the season. Mountaineers by 28. ESPN2 at 12:00 p.m EST.
ETSU vs. Gardner-Webb: The Buccaneers are 4-1 in 2018 and now host a 1-4 Gardner-Webb team. That’s about all I can provide in terms of analysis. ETSU running the table the rest of the way would be a nice treat for former Volunteer quarterback/coach Randy Sanders. Bucs by 21. ESPN+ at 3:30 p.m. EST.
UTEP vs. North Texas: Were you aware that UTEP is still probably the worst team in the FBS? They’re 0-5 and will face off against a 4-1 UNT squad that’s given a 97% chance of victory by ESPN. To their credit, UTEP has made their last couple of games close affairs. Let’s just all hope that the Miners can keep it close for a couple of quarters. Meanie Greenies by 31.
#22 Florida vs. #5 LSU: Neither of these teams are as good as they appear. LSU is probably closer to their ranking, because they beat a solid Miami team (with the benefit of turnovers) and a similar Auburn team. Their offense is still a bit questionable and Joe Burrow hasn’t been much more than a game manager. Meanwhile, Florida has encountered some incredible turnover luck and recently grabbed a rough 13-6 victory over Mississippi State, whose quarterback somehow underthrew 5-yard routes. So this game will probably be pretty close! In the end, Tennessee fans should hope for a devastating Florida loss, because misery loves company. Tigers by 7. CBS at 3:30 p.m. EST.
#2 Georgia vs. Vanderbilt: The Commodores looked like they might be a potential giant-killer against Notre Dame. They brought the Irish down to the wire with a surprising defense. That aura lasted one week, as they promptly got blown out by South Carolina and almost lost to Tennessee State. Georgia’s offense stumbled a bit against Tennessee, but they’ll regroup and run over a much less daunting group. Bulldogs by 35. SEC Network at 7:30 p.m. EST.
#8 Auburn at Mississippi State: Alleged offensive genius Gus Malzahn was held to just 24 points by Southern Miss, once again firing up the questions about why his side of the ball can’t find any sort of consistency. That’s going to be a problem against a Mississippi State team whose one strength is probably their front seven. Yet it might not even matter for the Bulldogs, who are considerably worse on offense. Cheer for Auburn in a close one, in hopes that Tennessee can pull off an upset next week against a Top 10 opponent. Tigers by 10. ESPN2 at 7:30 p.m. EST.
#1 Alabama at Arkansas: Arkansas head coach Chad Morris has held back 90% of his playbook for this game. That’s right, the Razorbacks are about to unleash a game plan that Alabama has no answer to. The 1-4 overall record has lulled the Crimson Tide into thinking this one will be a walk in the park, while Arkansas plots to deliver one of the greatest upsets in college football history. It’s going to be hell in the Ozarks. Crimson Tide by 42. ESPN at 12:00 p.m. EST.
South Carolina vs. Missouri: What is Muschamp even doing? They’ve already lost two games and look out of the running for the SEC East, despite returning most of their production from a 9-win team. In all likelihood, that’s his ceiling and South Carolina fans need to expect it. Quarterback Jake Bentley will probably look great against Missouri, but will their defense actually be able to stymie the Missouri offense? This is a true toss-up and you won’t go wrong either way. Might as well pick South Carolina to win and make Missouri a bit more vulnerable when they come in to Neyland later in the year. Gamecocks by 3. SEC Network at 12:00 p.m. EST.
#13 Kentucky at Texas A&M: Extremely cool that in the one year Tennessee would appreciate an easier SEC East schedule, Kentucky decided to be a quality opponent. The Wildcats are an incredibly tough team on both sides of the ball, and they’re living proof that winning the line of scrimmage will get you very far in the SEC. Meanwhile, Texas A&M has the most unforgiving schedule ever compiled, but they’re remaining competitive in each game. Tennessee fans should cheer for the Aggies in this one, in hopes that they provide a blueprint to beating the Wildcats. TAMU by 7. ESPN at 7:00 p.m. EST.
Top 25 Matchups
#19 Texas vs. #7 Oklahoma: Texas head coach Tom Herman has somehow launched himself off the hot seat with four straight victories, including two over opponents ranked at the time. This will be his toughest challenge yet. Oklahoma’s offense is an absolute machine with Kyler Murray under center. They haven’t had to play any defense tougher than Texas, but it’s Lincoln Riley. Forget the SEC snoozers above, the Red River Shootout deserves all your attention on Saturday. Sooners by 3. FOX at 12:00 p.m. EST.
#24 Virginia Tech vs. #6 Notre Dame: Well, at least Virginia Tech showed that the Old Dominion loss was somewhat of a fluke. The Hokies are back in the Top 25 after upsetting Duke, and now they get to host a Notre Dame team who might finally be the playoff team that Brian Kelly wants. Both defenses are going to be a joy to watch in this one. Tennessee fans should go for Notre Dame as a thank you for giving Vanderbilt fans false hope. Fighting Irish by 17. ABC at 8:00 p.m. EST.