Chattanooga at Tennessee
Saturday, 4 p.m. ET
Neyland Stadium (102,455) • Knoxville, Tenn.
TV: SEC Network
Series Record: Tennessee leads 37-2-2
Setting the table:
After a 45-year hiatus, the Vols and Mocs will meet up again in football. Located just under two hours from each other and part of the same University system, UT and UTC share some similarities, but are much different on the gridiron. The Mocs have found some recent success in the FCS’s Southern Conference, claiming a co-championship last year. Tennessee, meanwhile, is trying to find its way back to relevancy in the toughest FBS league in the nation, and faced a tough setback in a 10-9 loss to struggling rival Florida last week. The Mocs will be looking to make a statement to the nation while the Vols need their young team to keep progressing with several difficult SEC games on the horizon and the chance to return to a bowl game still in play.
Where Chattanooga has the edge:
There won’t be many places an FCS squad can expose an SEC team, but UTC’s defensive line will be one area of concern for the Vols. Led by senior defensive end Davis Tull, a two-time SoCon Defensive Player of the Year and Knoxville native, the Mocs could cause some problems for Tennessee’s struggling offensive line. Throw in FBS transfers Derrick Lett and Danny Ring and the Vols’ offensive line won’t be able to sleepwalk through this one.
Where Tennessee has the edge:
The Vols should have a decided edge almost everywhere else on the field. Even if the offensive line struggles in the least bit, Tennessee should be able to get rid of the ball quickly and let playmakers such as Marquez North, Von Pearson, Josh Malone and Pig Howard make big plays against the Mocs. Defensively, this unit that had a chance to shut out the Gators should be tough to score on again. Linebackers A.J. Johnson and Jalen Reeves-Maybin along with defensive end Derek Barnett, cornerback Cam Sutton and do-everything end/linebacker Curt Maggitt are all playing at a very high level right now.
“He is playing with a lot of confidence right now. He has really improved his technique, his man coverage skills. We talk about as a defensive back, the ability to find the blind spot, find the ball in the blind spot, he can turn, he can locate the ball, he can high point the ball and he is extremely, extremely competitive. He is as hard a worker as we have in practice.”
– Tennessee head coach Butch Jones on why cornerback Cam Sutton is playing so well
• Chattanooga won at Neyland Stadium in 1959 and the UTC fans tore down UT’s goal posts in the midst of a riot that ended in arrests and tear gas being fired
• The Vols lead the SEC and are third in the nation in third-down defense, only allowing opponents to convert on 24.7% of their attempts
• Saturday will serve as the Homecoming game for the Vols. Tennessee has won 27 of its last 30 Homecoming contests
• UTC leading rusher Keon Williams (hand) will miss the game
The Mocs are making strides as a program and they will come to Knoxville with an upset on their minds. Expect quarterback Jacob Huesman and that defensive line to make a few plays. But in the end, Tennessee is too big, athletic and talented for this one to be much of a contest. Expect the Vols to win comfortably and possibly to get some of the backups some experience late in the game.