This is a highly anticipated game, especially for fans of both teams. The teams have actually faced off eight times, five of which the Vols have won. With that being said, the two matchups people always seem to remember were split, the 1994 Gator Bowl, won by Tennessee, and the 2009 Chick-Fil-A Bowl, won by Virginia Tech.
This seems to be one of college footballs best, underplayed rivalries. Virginia Tech is looking to get another win and show that there is a good future under new coach Justin Fuente. Tennessee is looking to show that they deserve to be ranked higher and maybe deserve a playoff spot after a near loss to Appalachian State.
Both teams had sloppy games week one. Tennessee had a muffed punt which gave App State a short field and subsequent touchdown, and quarterback Joshua Dobbs wasn’t as mobile as we know he could be, staying in the pocket too long, taking sacks, and even throwing an interception.
Virginia Tech had four total turnovers against Liberty and allowed Liberty to briefly take a 13-10 lead. Both teams eventually answered and made up for their mistakes to win. Tennessee winded up winning in overtime by a touchdown, beating Tech by scoring 26 unanswered points.
Jerrod Evans threw for four touchdowns, but also fumbled the football, he briefly showcased good mobility but didn’t use it enough. Tech had a stagnant run game, and the line overall looked unimpressive, but players who did impress were Bucky Hodges, Jerrod Evans, and of course Isaiah Ford.
Dobbs threw for less yards and one touchdown but faced a more impressive defense. Tennessee’s run game was not stagnant and their defense looked very strong.
I’ll start with the keys to the game for Virginia Tech. Ball security is one, make sure to secure the ball on kickoffs and punts or get away from it if it’s hard to handle, protect Evans, hold on to the ball when running. Contain Jalen Hurd as well as possible, but also try to contain the passing game. And most of all the line needs to protect in a better way. Evans could also benefit from showing off his mobility more.
The keys to the game for Tennessee are this. Continue to play impressively on defense. Dobbs needs to show more mobility instead of focusing on proving to naysayers that he can win the game staying in the pocket and throwing. Get Jalen Hurd some opportunities, and be prepared to face an aggressive defense.
Both teams clearly want to win this, and all the fans of each team want to see their team win. The attendance record is likely to be broken as 150,000 tickets have been sold. These teams have sold out Bristol Motor Speedway, and now we prepare for the biggest in College Football History
Now for my prediction, I see a close, low scoring game 24-21, Tech. I see Evans continuing to look sharp and utilizing Hodges and Ford, while Dobbs looks sharp and so does Hurns. Tech scores three passing touchdowns, and Tennessee answers with two passing and one rushing, the talented Joey Slye kicks a bomb to win it.