5. Will ETSU take care of the football?
The East Tennessee State Buccaneers definitely have a balanced offensive attack that can put on a show. But Randy Sanders’s team also looks to be very turnover-prone at this moment. In their opener, the Bucs lost three fumbles.
If this is going to be any game whatsoever, ETSU has to take care of the ball. Tennessee football, for all its issues, didn’t have a turnover against the West Virginia Mountaineers. And they did force one in the fourth quarter before the game got out of hand.
As a result, the Vols could put this game out of reach early on Saturday by dominating the turnover battle. Jeremy Pruitt has always had a focus on an opportunistic defense that finds ways to create turnovers and even score points. There’s no better opponent to do that against than ETSU.
Now, to be fair, WVU was one of the worst teams at protecting the ball last year. So struggling last week in the turnover area may mean nothing for ETSU as they face the Vols this week. After all, WVU did only turn it over once.
However, the Vols don’t need to force turnovers to win this game. It’s just that ETSU has to avoid them to have any chance. Should they have another three turnovers on Saturday, this game will become the blowout everybody expects it to be.
But remember, UT almost had a turnover on their first offensive play against Charlotte. They have a lot to work on. So if ETSU fixes their turnover issue, they could maybe get just lucky enough with some Vols mistakes. Rocky Top will put it out of reach early, though, if they dominate the turnover battle.