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Tennessee Football Opponent Preview: BYU Cougars

Can the Vols take down the Cougars?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 31 Georgia State at Tennessee
The Vols are looking to rebound in a big way this weekend.
Photo by Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tennessee is coming off of one of the worst losses in program history as they host the BYU Cougars in Week 2 of the season.

Somehow, the Vols are favorites (-4) to win this game. Will they be able to get it done?

For the sake of Vol Nation’s sanity, let’s hope so.


A lot went wrong for the Vols last week, but it’s pretty clear that Jeremy Pruitt and the coaching staff let their team down. The players simply weren’t prepared and the Panthers outcoached and outmanned the Vols.

Tennessee was pushed around on both sides of the ball, Jarrett Guarantano continued to struggle with getting the ball out and reading the defense, and Ty Chandler didn’t receive a single carry in the second half.

The highlight of the entire game was Brent Cimaglia. That should tell you how bad it was.

But the Vols have a chance to at least get turned in the right direction this week. They can correct most of the mistakes that were made against Georgia State.

It’s rudimentary stuff, but it could help Tennessee get to 1-1 on Saturday.

BYU kept it close for a half against the 13th-ranked Utah Utes, but ultimately couldn’t muster up enough offense to keep up in a 30-12 loss. The Cougars turned the ball three times, including two interceptions that were returned for interceptions. Utah was able to score a touchdown following the third turnover - a fumble by Ty’Son Williams - as well.

Utah v BYU
Zach Wilson will be locked in Saturday.

Wilson will be the guy to stop when BYU rolls into Neyland. He is a very mobile quarterback who can throw when he has to. He did have his struggles against the Utes, but he should find success against the Vols, especially if their efforts on defense don’t change.

Tennessee’s offense must find a way to move the ball. That starts with the offensive line, which was not good on opening week. BYU held Utah to just 125 total yard in the first half of their matchup. BYU’s defense is pretty aggressive, so a good mix of screens and read-options would really help simmer them down.

The Vols also need to find a way to create turnovers. That was BYU’s undoing last week.

This is a big game for both teams.

What To Watch For

  • Effort: Yea, I know. It’s pathetic that I have to put this as something to watch for, but here we are. Just show us that you care and that you want to win on Saturday. That’s all.
  • Awareness: Another pathetic item to watch for. The Vols showed little-to-no awareness last week and it cost them.
  • Tennessee’s defensive line vs. BYU’s offensive line: The Cougars’ line measures out at like 6-foot-6, 305-pounds on average. Can the Vols get anything done against the hogs?
  • Jarrett Guarantano: The only thing that’s changed about Guarantano has been how to pronounce his last name. He has to get better, starting this week.
  • The offensive line: I feel like the Vols have been trying to figure out the offensive line for over half a decade now.

Impact Players

Tennessee Volunteers

  • RB Ty Chandler: The Vols HAVE to get him the ball more. He’s their best playmaker.
  • WR Jauan Jennings: He’s the heart and soul of this team and will be the one to lead them out of this dark hole.
  • G Trey Smith: Even though he’s limited in action, he’s a difference-maker when he’s on the field.
  • DT Greg Emerson: Maybe Pruitt has found his guy in Emerson. His development will be key this season.
  • LB Henry To’o To’o: He excelled last week and led the team in tackles.
  • LB Darrell Taylor: Can Taylor keep Wilson off his game with an effective pass rush?
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 31 Georgia State at Tennessee
Henry To’o To’o looked very good in his Tennessee debut.
Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

BYU Cougars

  • QB Zach Wilson: Pruitt compared him to Johnny Manziel earlier in the week. That’s all you need to know.
  • RB Ty’Son Williams: The transfer from South Carolina put the ball on the ground last week, but led the team in rushing with 45 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
  • TE Matt Bushman: Arguably BYU’s most effective offensive player, this monster tight end will give Tennessee fits on Saturday.
  • DT Khyiris Tonga: The gargantuan of a nose tackle will absolutely destroy Tennessee’s interior line if things don’t change this week.
  • LB Isaiah Kaufusi: BYU’s best linebacker simply flies around the field and makes plays.
  • LB Zayne Anderson: The senior led the team in tackles and added a half-TFL and one pass deflection against the Utes.

Game Outlook

The Vols are more talented than the Cougars, but they were also more talented than the Panthers.

This game will be a true measure of both this team and the coaching staff. We’re about to find out if they really give a damn about Tennessee or not.

But the Cougars are trying to avoid an 0-2 start themselves. Tennessee has to pound the rock if they want to win. Guarantano can’t shoulder the load himself. If BYU wants to win, then Wilson will have to cut down on the mistakes.

Honestly, this game is a coin-toss. Whichever team makes the least amount of mistakes will win.