2022 Tennessee season opener vs. Ball State predictions
By: John Dunn, Dallas Bowlin, Zack Troutt, Zac Strickland, William Allen, and Joe Davis.
The All Vol Call in Show
It’s football time in Tennessee, folks, and with that, comes the return of the All Vol Call in Show’s weekly prediction articles. Members of our staff will be breaking down the who’s, what’s, when’s, where’s, and why’s and predicting each game on a weekly basis.
Much like every season, the expectations surrounding the Tennessee football program seem to reside somewhere between the stratosphere and ionosphere. Josh Heupel and company look to continue their success from last season, while building on their record and showing improvement to the rabid-faithful fanbase.
After setting eight program records on offense last season, the Volunteers are seeking to replicate their offensive potency, while improving tremendously on defense. Depth, talent, and experience are areas that Tennessee has been lacking the past few years, but that is not the case this season.
The Volunteers get their first taste of the gridiron and a newly renovated Neyland Stadium on Thursday against the under-powered Ball State Cardinals.
John Dunn (Founder, Managing Editor, Host)
It seems like just yesterday that Tennessee fell to Purdue in the TransPerfect Music City Bowl. It’s a new year, but there will be a lot of things that stay the same. I fully expect the Volunteers to maintain their offensive potency. I don’t expect any dropoff, but instead, even bigger numbers for the Tennessee offense this season. Week one is an easy one. There’s really not even much to say. Ball State just doesn’t have the “Jimmys and Joes” to keep up with Tennessee. This one is over fast.
Prediction: Tennessee - 63 | Ball St. - 7
Joe Davis (Junior Staff Writer)
Ball State’s defense brings back three starters from a team that gave up 30 points a game last year. That's about all you need to know about Ball State. Expect Hendon Hooker and the Vols to run absolutely wild from the opening kickoff. This will be over early.
Prediction: Tennessee - 63 | Ball St. - 13
Zack Strickland (Junior Staff Writer)
Tennessee returns eight starters on both offense and defense, and though a few key contributors depart, the team’s leaders in passing, rushing, and receiving yards, as well as tackles, sacks, and interceptions, are all back this season. Coach Heupel has often reiterated that the overall depth of the 2022 unit is much improved from 2021, and that seems very logical seeing as how much of an issue depth was for last year’s team. The breakneck-pace offense does not have a QB battle to work through after Hendon Hooker’s breakout 2021 season, and returning players are already well accustomed to the playbook and the speed and endurance necessary to run the system. This should allow the team to hit the ground running much better than they did last year.
Tennessee’s defense will likely be a question mark at many points during the season, but the Ball State game is unlikely to be one of those times. The Cardinals went a respectable 6-7 last year, but their only game against a P5 opponent was a 44-13 loss to Penn State. lose their starting QB from last season and will likely start junior John Paddock, whose only action to this point has been in mop-up duty. One notable name on their roster is former Vandy receiver Amir Abdur-Rahman
While the Cardinals are unlikely to come into Knoxville rolling over, they simply don’t have nearly enough talent to keep up with Tennessee, particularly the high-octane offense. As they did last year, expect the Vols to dominate a team they’re supposed to dominate. Hooker and Cedric Tillman put up big stats in less than three quarters of action, and the second and third unit get valuable in-game reps throughout.
Prediction: Tennessee - 63 | Ball St. - 7
Zack Troutt (Junior Staff Writer)
The Vols will look to carry over their offensive success from last season behind Hendon Hooker, Cedric Tillman, Jabari Small, and Jalin Hyatt. The Cards are no slouch and will lean on redshirt senior quarterback John Paddock and seven returning offensive starters to try to upset the Big Orange.
Both teams’ offenses have the potential to put up big numbers, so this game will come down to whose defense can make stops. Tennessee will have the upper hand here and will be looking to clip the wings of the Cardinals. Ball State will come out aggressive, but Tennessee will score early and often on a Ball State defense that is inexperienced and only returns five starters from last season. This will be a good warm-up for the Vols; setting up for the showdown against Pitt in week 2.
Prediction: Tennessee - 51 | Ball St. - 12
Dallas Bowlin (Senior Staff Writer)
Tennessee has had its struggles in the past with season openers. Who can forget the Georgia State debacle, getting destroyed by West Virginia, or barely escaping Appalachian State in overtime? It’s natural to have concerns, this is college football, where anything can happen once, you’re in-between the lines. Not this year, though. Tennessee runs away with this one and starts
the season off right.
Prediction: Tennessee - 57 | Ball State - 20
William Allen (Senior Staff Writer)
Tennessee DC Tim Banks is entering year two with an expectation to improve defensively on a 42.13% conversion rate on third down against SEC opposition. Losing defensive standouts Alontae Taylor and Mathew Butler to the NFL are significant, but the rotations will be deeper on all three levels this season. Offensively, Tennessee will be among the top scoring teams in the nation with returning quarterback Hendon Hooker leading the way.
Former New Orlean Saints QB coach Mike Neu is entering his seventh season as Ball State's head football coach. After winning the MAC West in 2020, the Cardinals were 6-7 last season and will have a tough task stopping Tennessee at Neyland Stadium.
Prediction: Tennessee - 56 | Ball St. - 14