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Fearless Prediction: Tennessee vs. BYU

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Looking for the rebound.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 31 Georgia State at Tennessee Photo by Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The day started with a boat fire... then a member of the Pride of the Southland Marching Band passed out during their opening routine…and things got no better.

Saturday, August 31, 2019 will go down as one of the darkest days in the 120+ years of Tennessee football. The Vols 38-30 loss to a Georgia State team picked to finish last in the Sun Belt Conference was as shocking as it is unacceptable. A program with the finances, tradition and resources of Tennessee should never lose to the Georgia States of the football world.

The Vols looked ill-prepared on defense, anemic on offense and overall simply uninterested to play a football game for the first time in nine months. Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt and the rest of his staff get paid a lot of money to make sure this doesn’t happen.

But it happened.

The question now... is where do the Vols go from here? Because if they play the rest of the season the way they played against Georgia State, UT might go 0-12. I know what you’re thinking... “Mark, come on. We play Chattanooga next week. We won’t lose that game.”

Right… and no one thought Tennessee would lose to Georgia State either.

Unless you were Sentinel, you didn’t pick the Panthers to beat the Vols. The Fearless Prediction took a big L, just like every other human. But it’s time to bounce back.

This week the Vols host BYU. It will be the first time in the history of Neyland Stadium that you get the privilege of spending $13 for a Michelob Ultra, and if that’s not enough reason to make the trip to campus, I don’t know what is.

It will be a night game. The 7:05 p.m. kickoff gives Vols fans more than enough time to prepare for the opening kickoff. That could be a good thing if the Vols get off to a nice start. When things are rolling, Neyland Stadium can be an intimidating place for opponents. The opposite also holds true. If the Cougars come up with a couple of quick scores, the boo birds will be out in force.

BYU lost their season opener as well, but a defeat to nationally ranked Utah is nowhere near as absurd as what happened in Knoxville last weekend.

It’s only been sixty minutes of football, but all the optimism that came with the off-season hiring of Jim Chaney as offensive coordinator is gone among many Tennessee fans. Chaney must find ways to make this offense less predictable. Maybe giving Ty Chandler a few more carries could spark that side of the football. He averaged eight yards a carry against the Panthers, including a 31 yard scamper. But he only got seven touches total (six carries, one reception). Chandler is a home run threat for an offense severely lacking in that area.

Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano threw with 311 yards and two scores, but those numbers were deceiving. There wasn’t much improvement from last November on display for the redshirt junior.

Defensively, the Vols looked like a team that had never defended the option as Georgia State quarterback Dan Ellington ran all over them in the second half. BYU quarterback Zach Wilson is also mobile, which could cause more problems for the injury plagued and struggling Vols defensive line.

Pruitt is a defensive guy, which makes last Saturday even more of a head shaker. There were penalties, substitution issues, blown assignments and missed tackles a plenty. Is seven days enough time from Pruitt and his staff to correct those mistakes?

I honestly have no idea what to expect in this game. But Rocky Top Talk is paying me big bucks to make these decisions. So, let’s hope that the Vol Navy doesn’t see another ship sink. Let’s pray that no one in the Pride of the Southland Marching Band suffers from heat stroke. Maybe the BYU players, with an average age of 57* (*not confirmed) will decide to go to a Pigeon Forge dinner theatre instead and miss the game.

Fearless Prediction time...

Tennessee 24, BYU 20

Mark Nagi is the author of “Decade of Dysfunction,” an in-depth look at all that lead to the crazy coaching search of 2017 at Tennessee. The book is available on Amazon.