Here’s everything you need to know about the first-ever meeting between Utah State and Tennessee tonight on SEC Network.

When: Today
Where: Knoxville, Tennessee
Game Time: 7 PM ET
TV: SEC Network
Current Line: Tennessee (-5)

Game Buzz: Tennessee looks to take another positive step forward in head coach Butch Jones’ “brick by brick” rebuilding process. The first test will be a non-conference matchup against Utah State and acclaimed dual-threat quarterback Chuckie Keeton. Tonight’s game is the first opening game sellout at Neyland Stadium since 2007.

SATURDAY DOWN SOUTH PREVIEWS

TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS

Players to watch:

  • QB Justin Worley
  • RB Marlin Lane
  • WR Marquez North
  • WR Von Pearson
  • LB A.J. Johnson
  • LB Curt Maggitt
  • CB Cameron Sutton

Freshmen to watch:

  • RB Jalen Hurd
  • WR Josh Malone
  • TE Ethan Wolf
  • DE Derek Barnett
  • CB Emmanuel Moseley
  • KR Evan Berry

Keys for Tennessee:

  • Contain Chuckie Keeton. Utah State’s quarterback has received several preseason honors, including a projected Heisman Trophy candidacy. The Vols will need to prevent Keeton from taking over the game. Tennessee’s veteran linebackers will need to have a big game in order to avoid an upset.
  • Justin Worley must make a statement. The senior quarterback has yet to live up to expectations. With new talent at skill positions, Worley will have plenty of options at his disposal.
  • Tennessee has a talented group of wide receivers. Marquez North is a preseason All-SEC nominee, Von Pearson is a JUCO All-American and Josh Malone was the No. 2 wide receiver in the 2014 recruiting class. Tennessee will have plenty of options in its pass attack against inexperienced Utah State defensive backs.
  • Home field advantage. Tennessee fans are hungry for a winning season. Neyland Stadium will be packed with rabid fans excited for a clean slate to open the season. Having the backing of over 100,000 people should play in Tennessee’s favor.
  • Two-back system. Tennessee has a solid senior in Marlin Lane and a blue chipper in Jalen Hurd. The big backs should wear down Utah State’s talented linebacking corps and open up passing plays for Tennessee’s offense.

Vols’ glaring weakness to watch: Offensive and defensive lines– Tennessee is the only NCAA team that will return zero starters on both the offensive and defensive lines. Tonight’s game will provide the first example of whether the new starters’ inexperience will be too much for Tennessee to overcome.

Most interesting part of the game: Several freshmen will get solid playing time in tonight’s game. How will Butch Jones’ top-5 recruiting class fare in their collegiate debut?
Team Buzz: Tennessee went 5-7 last season and posted a losing record for the fourth consecutive year. But with a stellar recruiting class, Vol fans are beginning to feel optimism moving forward. Year two will be crucial for a fan base ready to see a turnaround.

UTAH STATE AGGIES

Players to watch:

  • QB Chuckie Keeton
  • RB Joe Hill
  • DE B.J. Larsen
  • LB Zach Vigil
  • LB Kyler Fackrell

Freshmen to watch:

  • No projected starters

Keys for Utah State: 

  • Chuckie Keeton. The elusive quarterback enters with plenty of hype and will have a national stage to prove it justified. Keeton is the best chance for a Utah State upset against a hungry SEC team in a hostile environment. Coming off season-ending knee surgery, the quarterback will need to be 100 percent to recapture the speed from his stellar sophomore season in 2012.
  •  Joe Hill must provide a compliment at running back. Both Keeton and Hill are coming off knee injuries. Hill will be important in providing a second option out of the backfield for the mobile quarterback. If both players are healthy, Tennessee will face a tough rushing attack from multiple angles.
  • Pressure the quarterback. Tennessee’s offensive line is inexperienced and Justin Worley struggles against the rush. This bodes well for a Utah State defense with several pass rushing options.
  • Strong play from linebackers. Zach Vigil is the senior leader  the Utah State defense. Alongside junior Kyler Fackrell, Utah State has a tough linebacking duo that could cause problems for Tennessee’s offense.

Aggies’ glaring weakness to watch: Defensive backs– Utah State returns one starter from the previous season in safety Brian Suite. Facing a talented Tennessee receiving corps, the matchup doesn’t bode well for the Aggies pass defense.

Most interesting part of the game: How will Chuckie Keeton fare against an SEC defense in front of 100,000 rabid fans and a national television audience?
Team Buzz: Utah State provides a tough, non-conference matchup for the favored Vols. Many Tennessee fans may be overlooking the talent Aggies, who are perfectly capable of pulling off an upset.
Key matchups: 
  • Tennessee’s wide receivers vs Utah State’s defensive backs: Tennessee holds a significant advantage in this matchup. The Vols have several wideouts with lofty preseason expectations, while Utah State’s pass defense is projected to be its biggest flaw.
  • Chuckie Keeton vs Tennessee’s front seven: Tennessee’s linebacking corps has plenty of experience to make up for its defensive line. However, Keeton’s elusiveness will provide plenty of pressure against the Vols’ front seven.