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Tennessee vs. West Virginia: Five Bold Predictions

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I’m back for round two and ready than ever to blow minds!

NCAA Football: Tennesee Practice
The Tennessee offense is primed for a big game Saturday
Caitie McMekin-USA TODAY Sports

After the worst season in program history, it’s anyone’s guess as to how this season will go for the Vols.

But fear not, for yours truly is here to make all of the terrible great predictions that no one else sees coming.

Well, maybe not so much, but at least it’s fun to go out on a limb every week just so I can beat my chest when one of these randomly come true.

Here are this week’s bold predictions:

1. The Vols finish with more offensive yards than the Mountaineers

The biggest prediction that is also most likely to fall flat on its face. But when you’re a ginger, you couldn’t care less if you’re wrong or right. You just don’t want to be a ginger anymore.

I think the Vols rack up over 250 yards on the ground and they get at least a 200 yard performance from Jarret Guarantano and/or Keller Chryst. That should put them at 450 on the night without adding in return yards.

Jeremy Pruitt will have a good game plan for the West Virginia Air Raid and while the Vols may not stop the Mountaineers often, they will make enough stops to make a difference in the game.

Tennessee’s ability to run the ball will also keep Will Grier and co. off the field, further helping the Vols reach this prediction.

2. The defense records at least four sacks

One advantage of a team with a completely new coaching staff is that no one really knows what the hell to expect in week one and something tells me that Pruitt will have some exotic blitz packages lined up that will catch West Virginia off guard.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Georgia Tech
Can Daniel Bituli repeat his week one performance from 2017?
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The Vols recorded four sacks in a game once in 2017. They finished with a putrid 22 quarterback takedowns on the year. If they record four sacks, not only will they match last year’s highest game total but they’ll also already have recorded almost 20% of their entire sack total from the past season.

Tennessee is going to give up yards, there is no doubt about that. If they can get to the quarterback, however, then it will be a drive-killer that could also be game-changer at any moment.

3. Will Grier throws multiple interceptions

Grier threw an interception in every game except two last season. On the bright side for WVU fans, he had just two games with multiple interceptions - a two-interception performance against Kansas State and a four-interception performance against Oklahoma State.

Both teams ranked 129th and 117th in the country in pass defense in 2017. It’s not unreasonable to think that the Vols force Grier into some mistakes during the game.

Grier’s threw four picks against the Cowboys. The first one looks like the result of an errant throw on the surface, but Oklahoma State’s multiple fronts and pressure already had him on edge by this point in the game. Despite a clean pocket, Grier rushes his decision and costs him team the ball.

His next throw is also the result of pressure. OSU sends six after Grier and he just chucks it downfield, hoping his receiver can make a play on the ball. The Cowboys are in man coverage.

You better believe Tennessee will be running this a lot on Saturday.

And this one is golden. Down 20 midway through the third, OSU only sends three after Grier on 3rd-and-9, yet he gets greedy and makes a terrible decision against zone coverage.

I’m sure the coaching staff has studied this tape and they’ll do everything in their power to throw Grier off of his game in order to create mistakes.

4. Two Volunteer running backs gain at least 100 yards on the ground

It doesn’t matter which two backs get the job done because if this happens, you can bank on a Tennessee victory.

The Vols will find their success on the ground and will run the ball down West Virginia’s throats. It’ll be exciting to see what a fullback looks like in orange for the first time in over a decade.

I’ll go ahead and say it’s Ty Chandler and Tim Jordan that break the century mark. Chandler will bust a big run, while Jordan will eat up time off the clock by extending drives with his legs.

5. The Vols will win the game

Starting off the season as a double-digit underdog is motivation enough to get things started off on the right foot, let alone the fact that most of this team suffered through the 4-8 debacle that was the 2017 season.

This team believes in the coaching staff and will come out and execute from the moment they step on the field. Even though Grier is a Heisman candidate, he is still just a man and is WVU’s best player.

But even he relies on other players - such as David Sills V - to get things done. I think Pruitt tells his freshman cornerbacks to man-up (literally and figuratively) and just run with the Mountaineer receivers.

Tennessee starts the season 1-0.