The Vols may have won big last weekend, but there is still plenty of work to do.
Jeremy Pruitt knows this and will pull all the stops against the UTEP Miners when they come to Neyland Stadium.
Tennessee destroyed their previous opponent, ETSU, 59-3. There’s absolutely no reason to think they want a repeat performance.
What do they need to do in order to make that happen? Let’s check out this week’s five bold predictions in order to find out.
1. The defense will record at least three sacks
Tennessee’s pass rush is absolutely terrible. They have just three sacks on the season and two of them belong to interior linemen Shy Tuttle and Emmit Gooden.
The thought coming into the season would be that Daniel Bituli, Darrin Kirkland Jr., and Jonathan Kongbo would be the main ones flying around the field making plays. That corps of players were supposed to be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks.
But those players have yet to perform to the level that’s expected and it’s left Pruitt digging for answers.
That all changes this week as the Vols find an answer to boost the pass rush. How they get there this week won’t be answered until tomorrow, but it will certainly be a step in the right direction.
2. The offensive line won’t allow any sacks
Even though the offensive line has only allowed three total sacks on the season, they have looked dreadful for the most part thus far.
ETSU dominated them for the first quarter of last week’s game while they were trying to get in synch with new center Ryan Johson after the Vols lost Brandon Kennedy for the season.
And we all remember the very first play of the season and how that turned out.
Regardless of how things have looked so far, this unit will play their best game of the season against the Miners. Jarrett Guarantano will have plenty of time to air the ball out and the Vols will roll to an easy win behind a jelling offensive line.
3. Dominick Wood-Anderson will have at least two touchdowns
It’s clear that Wood-Anderson is the go-to receiving threat when the Vols are inside the 10-yard line.
One would think that Tennessee won’t have many issues driving down the field, therefore increasing the odds that the talented JUCO transfer will see multiple opportunities to put points on the board.
Not only will he be a threat in the redzone - he will be one in the middle of the field as well. UTEP’s linebackers have pretty decent size, but they don’t even compare when it comes to Wood-Anderson’s talent level.
4. The Vols will run for over 200 yards as a team
Will Friend’s crew will not only improve in pass protection, but they will also improve in opening up holes for Tim Jordan and co. in order to keep the defense for UTEP off balance.
It’s a tall order considering the Vols couldn’t even crack 200 yards against ETSU.
Ty Chandler will make his return after suffering what seemed to be a concussion against the West Virginia Mountaineers. Tennessee’s most athletic running back will be an immediate spark and is the perfect complement to the ever-improving Tim Jordan.
Chandler is so valuable not just because of his athleticism, but because you can line him up anywhere on offense. Before he got hurt, he took a swing pass from about four yards behind the line of scrimmage and turned it into a six-yard gain before you could even think straight.
Combine Chandler and Jordan with what was seen from Jeremy Banks against ETSU and all of a sudden, the Vols have a stout trio of workhorses.
Look for them to wear down the Miners this weekend.
5. There won’t be a weather delay
Man, the weather gods hate Tennessee football - whether it be pro or college. First it was the delay in Charlotte, then the delay in Knoxville last weekend. Hell, even the Titans game down in Miami was delayed for over an hour and a half.
But don’t worry. There won’t be any kind of weather delay this weekend.