Fearless Prediction: Tennessee vs. Arkansas
When you looked at Tennessee’s schedule back in the summer, you likely thought that Arkansas was the easiest game on the docket. The Razorbacks had lost 19 straight SEC games. They fired Chad Morris and hired Sam Pittman, who wasn’t a hot name in that coaching cycle. The roster wasn’t exactly stocked with talent.
But Arkansas has been one of the biggest surprises of the college football season. The Hogs beat Mississippi State. They beat Ole Miss. They were robbed of a win against Auburn. They are 2-3, but if you are a Razorbacks fan you have to be pleased with how the team looks these days.
The Vols are also 2-3, but their fans are feeling the opposite emotions. All the good vibes after season-opening wins over South Carolina and Missouri are long gone. Tennessee has lost 3 straight games and none has been close. That includes a 48-17 defeat to Alabama, the 14th consecutive time they’ve fallen to the Crimson Tide. It’s Year 3 of the Jeremy Pruitt era, and its obvious that Tennessee has a lot of work to do to be competitive in the league.
If Tennessee is even going to get to .500 this season, they have to win in Fayetteville this Saturday.
The Vols will have to contend with Florida transfer Feleipe Franks, who has rejuvenated his career at UA. Franks has completed 66% of his passes, throwing 11 touchdown passes with 3 interceptions in 155 attempts. His big play target is Treylon Burks, who has 26 grabs for 366 yards and 4 touchdowns. 2 of those scores came in last week’s loss to Texas A&M.
The running game isn’t that impressive, ranked 76th in the nation, but Trelon Smith and Rakeem Boyd have picked up 439 yards on the ground. Franks has run for 156 yards.
Which leads me to the Tennessee offense. Remember when that running game, with Eric Gray and Ty Chandler and what was supposed to be a dominant offensive line, was going to grind games out on the way to victory? Well, they are only ranked 70th in the nation.
Here’s some breaking news. The quarterback situation … it’s not good! Jarrett Guarantano keeps getting starts and Tennessee fans are losing their minds. Head coach Jeremy Pruitt has other options in Brian Maurer, J.T. Shrout and true freshman Harrison Bailey, but those are options he apparently is unwilling to pursue, at least not at this juncture.
The defenses are very similar in terms of statistics. Tennessee is ranked 59th nationally and Arkansas comes in 64th. The Vols’ best defender is linebacker Henry To’o To’o (33 tackles, 5 for loss). The Razorbacks best defender is linebacker Grant Morgan (58 tackles, 5 for loss).
This has nothing to do with much of anything, but the guy 2nd on the team in tackles for Arkansas has one of the best names in all of college football. A junior linebacker named Bumper Pool. That should be worth at least a few points a game.
I like to be honest with you, dear reader. You should know that I have no confidence in this pick. This game is basically a toss-up according to the folks in the big shiny buildings in the Nevada desert.
The Vols have had a bye week. Which is good … but I don’t think that the extra 7 days can solve their problems.
Arkansas is getting steady quarterback play. Tennessee isn’t.
And that’ll be the difference.
Fearless Prediction time …
Arkansas 23, Tennessee 17