5. Tennessee’s young cornerbacks vs. WVU’s elite receivers
This is probably the storyline people are talking about the most throughout the period leading up to the game. Tennessee football’s secondary is struggling enough going through the change to a 3-4 defense.
Add in the fact that the Vols have a brand new rotation at cornerback, and opponents are looking to exploit that. There’s no better team to take advantage of that match-up than the West Virginia Mountaineers, and that’s why this game could get ugly.
In addition to Will Grier, WVU returns three of its top four wide receivers, including leading receiver Gary Jennings along with David Sills and Marcus Simms. This could be the best wide receiving corps. in the nation, and they will be looking to take advantage.
Meanwhile, it’s almost a given that the Vols will get burned some in the secondary. Baylen Buchanan is one of the smarter players, which is why he’s one starter. He likely picked up the 3-4 defense quickly. But he doesn’t have all the physical tools to be a shutdown guy.
On the other side, the Vols are choosing between two four-star athletes in Bryce Thompson and Alontae Taylor. Both probably have potential, but they are the opposite of Buchanan: they likely haven’t picked up the defense fully yet. The result of this could be disastrous.
If WVU is going to win, though, they need to exploit this as much as possible. Tennessee, meanwhile, needs to find some way to offset it. Both of these factors lead to our next key in the game for each team.