4. The Vols’ defense will force three turnovers.
The good news for Tennessee football is that the West Virginia Mountaineers are prone to turnovers with this air raid offense. Even with Will Grier returning to form, they will likely have numerous issues here once again throughout the season.
Last year, this team was one of the 15 worst in the nation at protecting the football. They had 26 turnovers on the year, including 14 interceptions. Grier himself threw 12 interceptions despite missing the final part of the season due to injury. And he also had six fumbles, losing two of them.
Pro Football Focus noted last year that Grier is one of the worst quarterbacks in the country when under pressure. And, for all of their issues, the Vols do have a front seven capable of bringing such pressure. So this is good news for them overall.
Remember, up front, Shy Tuttle, Alexis Johnson and Emmit Gooden are all defensive tackles who were four-star recruits. Meanwhile, Kyle Phillips was a five-star. On the outside at edge rusher, Jonathan Kongbo was another five-star, Darrell Taylor was a four-star, and Jordan Allen coming off the bench is a four-star.
Then you have the inside linebackers in Darrin Kirkland Jr., Daniel Bituli Quart’e Sapp. That’s where the 3-4 transition is toughest, but Kirkland has a photographic memory while Bituli specializes as a pass-rusher specifically.
So, simply put, with all these recruiting rankings, the Vols are bound to have some guys who can get to the quarterback. As a result, they will force at least three turnovers. And that number could even be higher. The trick will be getting around WVU’s offensive line, which is very good at pass protection. But UT is good enough to do that a few times.