Tennessee is just 1-4, but fans got a little glimpse of hope in last week’s blowout loss to Georgia. Jeremy Pruitt made the switch at quarterback, sparking offensive life for the Volunteers. He’s sticking with Brian Maurer this week, looking to build off of that progress we saw last week. Will it be enough for Tennessee to find its second win of the season?
Our staff makes their predictions below.
Terry Lambert: Tennessee 27, Mississippi State 23
Maybe I’m buying in too much to the Brian Maurer hype. Maybe it’s just been too long since we saw competent quarterback play. But it’s easy to see that Tennessee got better in the open date. They were never going to hang with Georgia for four quarters, but we knew that going in.
Now they get Mississippi State, who got blasted by Auburn and lost to Kansas State. Tennessee is going to have to at least slow down their potent rushing attack, but this feels like a spot where the Vols can finally get something done on the ground. That, plus a couple of big plays from Maurer, will give the Vols their second win of 2019.
Evan Winter: Mississippi State 30, Tennessee 20
This is certainly the most winnable game the Vols have played in a good while. Mississippi State has struggled this season and things don’t look much better for the Bulldogs on Saturday.
However, I’m still not sure this team can compete in the SEC. The Vols play hard, but State finds a way to pull ahead and win the game.
Austin Burlage: Tennessee 21, Mississippi State 10
With Brian Maurer the Vols are clearly a different team. His ability to stretch the field vertically, as observed in his first half performance against the Georgia Bulldogs, makes the offense much more potent than it was previously this season. I don’t think it will be enough to get the Vols over the 30-point mark — it has been quite a while since that last happened for the Vols — but I think it will be enough to get the job done.
Mississippi State’s quarterback position is much less certain. The Bulldogs have flipped between Tommy Stevens and Garrett Shrader so far this season. Stevens is the far more experienced player, but Shrader has been able to do much more damage in the running game — and running the quarterback is a huge part of their offense.
Maybe I’m still riding high from Maurer’s beautiful 73-yard touchdown pass a week ago? But, I think the Vols can keep make the Bulldogs one-dimensional on offense, shut down the run, and escape with an ugly victory.
Clint Eiland: Mississippi State 21, Tennessee 17
Part of me really does want to believe that Tennessee is rapidly improving. You can’t take too much away from 20+ point losses, but the Volunteers offense did look rejuvenated against a top-20 Georgia defense, and the defense held out for as long as they realistically could. If Tennessee played like that in every game this year, they’re probably 3-2.
I’m just not there yet. I need to see more consistency from Tennessee’s offense before I pick them to win any game besides UAB the rest of the season. That being said, Mississippi State is definitely vulnerable, and they won’t be pulling away in this contest. It’s a tough battle that ultimately ends up in the Bulldogs favor.
Noah Taylor: Mississippi State 24, Tennessee 21
Back in August, no way would I have thought this was a winnable game for Tennessee, but after last weekend’s showing against Georgia and the way Mississippi State has played to this point in the season, I think it is.
It’s hard to take too many positives out of a 43-14 loss, but there’s no doubt the Vols looked better in the first half against Georgia than they have all season.
There is warranted optimism heading into Saturday, but I still think the Bulldogs may be too much on the offensive side of the ball. With Maurer, I think Tennessee can score, but I think Kylin Hill will have a couple of big, drive-sustaining runs. Yards after contact hurt the Vols against Georgia.