Tennessee football plays host to 13th ranked Ole Miss in what has become the most anticipated match up the Vols have played all season. The Vols play host to the ghost of their past: Ole Miss head coach, Lane Kiffin. Kiffin coached the Vols for only one season in 2009 and is considered a main part in the downfall of Tennessee football. Since Kiffin’s departure in 2009, Tennessee has beat Florida once and has yet to beat Alabama. What does Tennessee have to do to exorcise this demon? I have your answers.
The defense must force turnovers.
So far in the season, Tennessee’s defense has been exceptional in stopping the run; however, Ole Miss offense revolves around quarterback Matt Coral. Coral has thrown for 1,497 yards and 12 touchdowns and has yet to throw an interception; add in Coral’s 8 rushing touchdowns and he has an astounding 20 touchdowns in just 6 games this season. If Tennessee is going to come out the victors in this pivotal matchup, they’re going to have to limit Coral’s production and force his first interception of the season.
The offense has to dominate the run game.
Tennessee has been running the ball at will so far this season. That starts with JUCO transfer running back Tiyon Evans. Evans has rushed for 486 yards and 6 scores, including a 92-yard sprint at Missouri in the Vols’ SEC opener. QB Hendon Hooker has also been a focal point to Tennessee’s rushing attack. The red-shirt senior has piled up 282 yards and 3 touchdowns in 4 games as a starter. Tennessee has been without Jabari Small for the past 3 weeks and it appears that Small will be back for this game against the Rebels.
The injury bug is ceased.
Tennessee played last Saturday’s game against South Carolina with a plethora of injuries. Cooper Mays, Jabari Smalls, Trevon Flowers, and Daneiko Slaughter were just some of the guys that were missing and who are set to make their return to the field this weekend. You never want to have injuries, but the time couldn’t have been better for the Vols. Tennessee got to play Missouri and South Carolina while undermanned. As Tennessee begins to get back healthy, it does so at the best time possible. In the next four games Tennessee plays: #13 Ole Miss, @ #5 Alabama, @ #11 Kentucky, and #1 Georgia. I’m not saying Tennessee will win all of these games, but it will feel good to Heupel and company to have all of their guys back to try and pull off some upsets.
Tennessee football announced that Neyland Stadium has been sold out and will be checkered for the first time since 2017. A lot of excitement is going into this game and could be looked back at as a key win for Heupel and company as they work towards bringing the Vols back to their rightful spot atop the SEC. The Vols can move 5-2 headed to Alabama next weekend and I think that is exactly what will happen.
My score prediction: Tennessee 48, Ole Miss 31.