Tennessee vs. Mississippi State: a brief overview of history and what the Vols must do to win.
By: John Dunn
The All Vol Call in Show
October 8, 2019
Tennessee moved to 1-4 following their loss to (3) Georgia on Saturday. However, there is a sense of cautious optimism surrounding the current quarterback situation.
Freshman quarterback Brian Maurer brought a little bit of hope back to this Tennessee football season with his first half performance against one of the best teams in the nation.
In the first half, Tennessee actually led the Bulldogs for five series. The combination of Maurer and Callaway and Maurer and Jennings proved to be a successful one in the first half, as Tennessee jumped out to a 14-10 lead that was cut to 14-13 before Georgia inevitably took a lead that would never be relinquished.
However, the hearts of Vol fans were full again -- if even for a second. Now Tennessee has fallen to 1-4 for the first time in a very long time.
Facing an uncommon SEC West foe this season, Tennessee prepares for the Mississippi State Bulldogs as they travel to Knoxville this Saturday to see if they can win their second straight game against the Volunteers.
Mississippi State won the last match up in 2012 41-31. However, Tennessee leads the series all-time with the Bulldogs 28-16-1.
The Vols struggled to get pressure on quarterback Jack Fromm last week, but most teams have had trouble getting into the Georgia backfield. Georgia ranks T-1 in the country for the least amount of sacks allowed this season with one.
Mississippi State's offensive line hasn't had as much success as Georgia, as they have allowed 11 sacks on the season, good for 78th in the country. Tennessee has allowed nine sacks on the season. With a line that has yet to prove that they are capable of keeping their quarterback off the ground, the Bulldogs may see a lot of orange in the backfield on Saturday.
Along with limited pressure on the opposing quarterback, Tennessee failed to establish a solid running game. With play makers such as Ty Chandler and Eric Gray, it is crucial that the Vols establish consistency running the football. With Maurer looking like he is capable to deliver in the passing game, if Tennessee's offensive line can continue to improve, the Vols should have no problem getting things going on the ground against the nations #78 ranked defense.
Mississippi State is allowing 401.4 yards-per-game through this point in the season. However, the Vols are sitting at #104 in total offense through this point in the season, averaging just under 360 yards-per-game. However, Tennessee has played against some of the nation's top defenses up to this point. Georgia's defense ranks ninth and Florida's defense ranks 17th.
If Maurer can continue to provide an offensive spark against Mississippi State, expect a big stat line for both Jauan Jennings (who led the Vols with seven receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown against Georgia) and Marquez Callaway, who also proved to be a pivotal play maker against Georgia, catching Tennessee's first touchdown.
Tennessee currently bolsters the nation's T-42nd ranked defense and Mississippi State has the nation's 78th ranked offense. The Vols have shown flashes of being good on the defensive end of the ball, such as in the first half of the BYU game, in which they limited the Cougars to three points in the first half -- or the Chattanooga game, in which the Vols shut out the Mocs.
If Tennessee can cause some disruption in the backfield for the Bulldogs, they may be able to capitalize on some less-than-accurate passes into the Volunteer secondary. Nigel Warrior, Alonte Taylor and Bryce Thompson will have to show up ready to play.
Henry To'oto'o will continue to do what he has done all year and cause troubles for offenses. Darrell Taylor, and Daniel Bituli will have to us their leadership and strength to make sure this young team is in the best possible position defensively.
On the offensive side of the ball, Tennessee will have to get Chandler and Gray some opportunities in the running game. No offense to Tim Jordan, but when he is your leading rusher for a game, odd are, you're not having a great day on the ground. Get the ball into the hands of your play makers and allow them to do what they are capable of doing.
Mississippi State is the most winnable game that the Volunteers have played since the Chattanooga game in week three. If Tennessee wants to make a bowl game this season, they absolutely must win this game, because it doesn't get much easier next week as the Vols travel to T-town to take on the #1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide in a very late 9 pm start time.