The Tennessee Volunteers have somehow steered their 2019 season back on track. Wins over Mississippi State and South Carolina have reinvigorated the program, which now has some real momentum going forward into the final four games.
A bowl game is now a legitimate possibility for the Vols, who need to win three of their next four to get there. Next up will be a 6-1 UAB squad that has given Tennessee a scare before. Can the Blazers hang tough on Saturday night?
Our staff picks are in.
Terry: Tennessee 38, UAB 13
Austin didn’t have enough faith in our Vols last weekend, so I’ll happily claim the top spot all alone with just four weeks left.
Tennessee continues to figure things out, playing aggressive and winning on both the offensive and defensive front. They’ll welcome a decent UAB team to Neyland Stadium this weekend in a classic trap spot following a big win and ahead of an important game against Kentucky.
In this case, that loss they took against Georgia State might work in their favor. Tennessee shouldn’t overlook anyone after that one, particularly a 6-1 UAB squad. The Vols should come out hungry and ready to roll under the lights at Neyland. I don’t anticipate too many issues.
Austin: Tennessee 34, UAB 13
Terry is totally justified for roasting me in his post above. Without Brian Maurer I thought Tennessee wouldn’t be able to score enough points to beat an SEC opponent, particularly one with a defensively minded head coach. I couldn’t have been more wrong. With the help of special teams contributions Tennessee scored more than 30 points against an FBS opponent for the first time since the 2017 season opener.
UAB comes into Neyland Stadium with a terrific 6-1 record. However, that might be the product of a weak schedule. I know that the joke in college football is to claim that your opponent “ain’t played nobody.” But, in UAB’s case this may actually be somewhat true. Their six wins have been against teams that are a combined 2-35 vs. FBS opponents. The Volunteers will easily be the best team UAB has seen this season to date. I think Tennessee has it rolling right now, and they will be aided by a rowdy homecoming crowd. Give me the Vols in this one, comfortably.
Evan: Tennessee 24, UAB 14
I like where the Vols are right now, but I don’t think this is going to be a blowout like my fellow colleagues think it will be.
UAB plays tough defense and even though the Vols have been improving on the offensive side of the ball, this team should be able to give them some problems, especially if Darnell Wright and Jahmir Johnson can’t go.
I’m not overly concerned with the Blazer’s rushing attack, but I am concerned with how their receivers match up with our corners. Ryan Hilinski threw for over 300 yards last week. In case you didn’t know, South Carolina’s receivers aren’t very good. This secondary is still a bit of a problem area for me.
This game will go one of two ways: either Tennessee keeps a multi-score lead throughout the game and UAB makes a play or two to make the score look better, or UAB keeps it close but the Vols pull away right at the end.
Either way, Tennessee wins and gets one step closer to a .500 record and a bowl game.
Noah: Tennessee 34, UAB 14
Looking ahead at Tennessee’s after that loss to Georgia State back in week one, I thought UAB had a legitimate shot at coming to Knoxville and beating the Vols.
Make no mistake, Bill Clark and the Blazers shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially given their success since reviving their program in 2017, and facing a 3-5 Tennessee team coming off of back-to-back emotional games would seem like the perfect scenario for UAB to notch that sought-after marquee win to even further bolster their image.
Still, the Blazers’ 6-1 record can be deceiving, given the fact that their opponents are a combined 2-35 against FBS competition.
I could definitely see UAB giving the Vols fits early, but I expect Tennessee to get win No. 4 in relatively comfortable fashion, setting up an important final three game stretch that could send them to the postseason for the first time since 2016.
Clint: Tennessee 35, UAB 10
I’m confident that I can finally go over .500 on the season after this Saturday’s game!
UAB is a decent squad with a coach that’s become known for overachieving. The Blazers have a very solid defense which might catch Tennessee off guard, especially after an exhilarating performance against the Gamecocks. However, I don’t expect Tennessee’s defense to let UAB do much at all. This strikes me as a game where the end result is never really in doubt, but Tennessee doesn’t do enough to make it seem completely convincing.
Vols get their fourth win of the season and get prepared for a tough trip to Lexington.
Nick: Tennessee 45, UAB 21
There’s a reasonable case one could make that Saturday’s game against UAB is the most important game of the year.
It’s not necessarily that this game is more important than the Florida game was or more important than the Georgia game was, because that’s probably a little bold.
But, let’s say the Vols go out and lay another egg like they did against Georgia State. Close game or not, every bit of traction Pruitt has gained back by winning two of the last three games would be absolutely obliterated. Given the context of the season and the relatively positive climate currently surrounding the team, this is now the most important game of the year so far.
UAB is 6-1 on the season, but the quality of teams it’s played is, politely, substandard, and Tennessee is on another level in terms of size, speed and talent. It’s the homecoming game for a reason, and the Vols should absolutely win this game. I think they do, and I think it’s convincing.