Tennessee is 5-5 on the year, and believe it or not, they have just two games left on the regular season slate. Focus has shifted to finding that sixth win of the season to obtain bowl eligibility, and the Volunteers have South Alabama and Vanderbilt left to get it.
The Vols came out of a brutal four game stretch with a 1-3 mark, dropping games to Alabama, Ole Miss and Georgia. Josh Heupel was able to pick up his first top 25 win against Kentucky, however.
Now with two games left, the intensity must remain high as Tennessee looks to build momentum heading into the offseason. South Alabama is up next — a team that frankly is limping to the finish line. Quarterback Jake Bentley (yes, that Jake Bentley) has been injured for the past couple of weeks, battling a torn MCL. Bentley actually did practice on Monday, but was very limited. Based on the reports to this point, it would be a surprise if he played on Saturday night.
That leaves Desmond Trotter under center for the Jaguars, who has handled nearly all the snaps over the last two games. The 6-3 dual-threat quarterback has completed 42 of 72 attempts for 375 yards passing on the year. He’s thrown three touchdowns and three interceptions, while adding 44 yards rushing.
South Alabama has dropped five of their last seven, following a 3-0 start to the season. Head coach Kane Wommack is in his first season, coming over from his previous stop as the Indiana defensive coordinator.
“They got a really good scheme,” Tennessee defensive coordinator Tim Banks said of South Alabama. “Some pretty good athletes out there, the quarterback is athletic, strong arm. Just like anything, I tell guys all the time, anybody can lose, and anybody can win on any given Saturday. We’re preparing for them no different than we would prepare for any team on our schedule.”
South Alabama is ranked 16th in total defense in the FBS ranks. However, they’ve given up 30+ points in three of their last four, and just lost top cornerback Darrell Luter to injury. Luter had four picks on the year and ranks as one of the best in the Sun Belt with ten pass break-ups.
Offensively, South Alabama is 86th in total offense, and the absence of Bentley will be a big blow. The Jaguars only put up seven points last week against Appalachian State as Trotter failed to spark the offense.
For Tennessee, it’s a chance to reset both units after a tough stretch of football.
“We know we’re going to get their best shot but, at the end of the day, it’s about us giving our best shot,” Banks said. “That’s no different from our approach week-in and week-out. It’s the same approach we’ll have with these guys. They’re talented and, like I said they have a good scheme. We know we’re going to have to bring our A-game to be successful.”
Tennessee remains 28 point favorites heading into this one, per DraftKings Sportsbook. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET time from Knoxville, with ESPNU carrying the broadcast.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See DraftKings.com/sportsbook for details.