All is not well on Rocky Top.

Yes, they snapped a 6-game losing streak last weekend with a resounding 42-17 win at Vanderbilt, but considering the fact that the Commodores were down to 49 scholarship players on a team that hasn’t won a football game since 2019? Let’s just say they aren’t planning a parade anytime soon in Knoxville.

Year 3 of the Jeremy Pruitt era has not gone as planned. The Vols are 3-6, losing all 6 contests by double digits. Their quarterback situation was a dumpster fire almost all season. The defense still can’t stop a slant pattern. Things got so bad that even kicker Brent Cimaglia, one of their few reliable players, had a subpar year and opted out with 2 games to go.

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Tennessee fans have been down this road before. Indeed, 2020 feels very much like 2008 and 2012 and 2017, which is bad news for Pruitt.

“Grumors” (the term that affectionately detailed the many Tennessee/Jon Gruden flirtations over the years) has been replaced by “Hughmors.” Liberty coach Hugh Freeze, who has 2 wins over Nick Saban and a bunch of baggage on his résumé, has not been spotted driving a bright orange Maserati down I-40. But Tennessee holds a special place in his heart, and he would be interested in the job … if it opens … and if Auburn hasn’t plopped a big back of dough on his doorstep before that potentially happens.

When fans’ anger turns to apathy, a coach typically has a tough time getting back in their good graces. That’s where many Vols fans are at the present time. One way Pruitt could earn some positive vibes (at least partly) would be with a season-ending upset of Texas A&M on Saturday.

Like the Vols, the Aggies have a head coach in his 3rd year at the school. The first 2 years weren’t a breeze for Jimbo Fisher. Their combined record was 17-9, but only 3-7 against nationally-ranked opponents. That’s not exactly what Aggies fans expected when Fisher was given a mammoth 1o-year, $75 million contract.

But this program has taken some major steps forward in 2020. Yes, they were swamped by top-ranked Alabama, but the Aggies’ victory over Florida a week later gave Fisher the statement win he so desperately needed. And now, 7-1 Texas A&M is firmly in the Playoff discussion. If someone slips up, the Aggies could benefit. The Aggies are coming off an unplanned bye week after their game against Ole Miss was postponed. This will be their last chance to impress the Playoff committee, so they might be looking for style points.

Texas A&M has no issue at quarterback. Senior Kellen Mond has thrown for 1,769 yards this season, with an impressive 18-to-2 touchdown to interception ratio. Mond gets a lot of help from running back Isaiah Spiller, who is averaging 112 rushing yards a game. Mond has 3 receivers that have caught at least 24 passes this season, including the versatile Ainias Smith. Yes, it’s a balanced attack. The Aggies are ranked 36th in the nation in total offense.

Tennessee, with the woeful 94th best offense in the country, is finally going away from quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. True freshman Harrison Bailey and redshirt sophomore J.T. Shrout played almost every snap at Vanderbilt, with sophomore Brian Maurer also seeing the field. They will lean on running back Eric Gray, who is averaging 86 yards a game on the ground.

Defensively the Aggies are ranked 21st, with linebacker Buddy Johnson leading the way with 74 tackles. The Vols are 59th in the nation, with linebacker Henry To’o To’o tops at 66 stops.

I don’t see any way that the Vols pull an upset. A week ago, the Vols showed that they still had some fight in them. That won’t mean as much against a team as talented as the Aggies.

Fearless Prediction time …

Texas A&M 35, Tennessee 16

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