1. Georgia State is experienced, improved and has nothing to lose.
There are X’s and O’s reasons, injury reasons and coaching reasons to believe the Georgia State Panthers could spoil Tennessee football’s opener Saturday if the ball bounces a certain way. Then there’s the cliche reason.
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Hey, the Panthers have all the psychological advantages. Okay, so UT is not going to be nervous playing this game. They expect to handle GSU early, and Jeremy Pruitt is probably hoping to get his backups in the game as quickly as possible. That may not happen if he’s not careful given the improvements Shawn Elliott’s team.
The Vols are on a mission this year to show that they’ve improved. Georgia State is on that mission too, though. And they have just as much experience as UT and almost as much returning talent. So entering this game, they will be looking to make a statement. And the best part for them is that if they fail, it doesn’t mean anything.
Georgia State could lose by 50 and still have a turnaround season, meeting the goal Elliott has for the team. If the Vols lose or even win in ugly fashion, though, it will derail their season from the start and put lots of pressure on Pruitt. As a result, GSU could start making UT nervous by just appearing a bit threatening in the early part of the game.
Doing that will make the stadium nervous and might make the UT players, who are on a team that has suffered back-to-back losing seasons, a bit nervous as well. Again, this is a nothing-to-lose everything-to-gain game for Georgia State.
Also, Tennessee football is facing a trap game. The BYU Cougars are coming to town the next week and the Vols’ primary non-conference opponent. They’ll likely be thinking about that. Could an improved GSU team catch them off-guard in the process? Yes. With Furman on the plate next week, the Panthers can put everything they have into this one. So Pruitt has to be careful.