Jeremy Pruitt’s second year opens with Tennessee football hosting Georgia State at Neyland Stadium. Here is our preview for the Volunteers and Panthers.
Rejoice! The 2019 season is upon us! Tennessee football takes the field for the first time since last November looking for a dramatic improvement upon a 5-7 season in which they lost six games by 25 or more points.
To get things going, the Vols will host the Georgia State Panthers at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. With redshirt junior Jarrett Guarantano back to take the reins at quarterback, Jim Chaney returning for his second stint on Rocky Top as offensive coordinator, and Derrick Ansley coming back for his first stint ever as the defensive coordinator, there’s a lot to watch for.
In addition to Guarantano, Tennessee football has returning starters all over the field, including star players like Ty Chandler, Darrell Taylor, Daniel Bituli, Jauan Jennings, Marquez Callaway and Nigel Warrior. Joining those returners are elite freshmen such as Wanya Morris, Darnell Wright, Henry To’oTo’o and Warren Burrell from a top 12 recruiting class.
Meanwhile, a group of elite transfer defensive linemen, including Aubrey Solomon from the Michigan Wolverines and junior college transfers Darel Middleton and Savion Williams, have arrived to offset the one position where they did suffer major losses. So Pruitt did a lot to upgrade his roster this year. Whether or not it pays off remains to be seen.
Georgia State is the first of what should be one of the easiest slate of non-conference games in history for Tennessee football. The Vols will follow them up with the BYU Cougars and Chattanooga Mocs before facing the UAB Blazers later this year, all at home.
In their third season under Shawn Elliott and their seventh in FBS play, the Panthers are coming off a year in which they went 2-10 and 1-7 in the Sun Belt. However, it’s worth noting that like the Vols, they return players all over the field. Their key player is quarterback Dan Ellington, who led the team in rushing and passing last year.
They lost key receiver Penny Hart but have some elite talent returning there, on defense and at running back. So they will be looking to take a major step forward as well this year. Here’s all the information you need for this game.
Georgia State Panthers at Tennessee Volunteers
When: Saturday, Aug. 31 at 3:30 p.m. E.T.
Where: Neyland Stadium; Knoxville, Tenn.
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Line: Tennessee -27
This is the second meeting between the Vols and Panthers. The first time they met was the second game in 2012, the last time Chaney was UT’s offensive coordinator and Ansley was on staff with Derek Dooley as head coach.
Tennessee football won that game 51-13 to get to 2-0 and in the top 25 for the first time since the opening week of 2008. But they lost to the Florida Gators the next week, and the season unraveled from there as the Vols fell to 5-7.
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One major factor in this game is Elliott’s familiarity with Rocky Top. He spent seven years as an assistant with the South Carolina Gamecocks under Steve Spurrier and half a season as an interim head coach, going 4-3 against the Vols in that time while almost winning his one game as an assistant despite leading a 3-9 team. Being a Spurrier protege is intimidating enough.
Elliott is also 2-1 against Pruitt himself. He was the line coach on S.C.’s team that blew out the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2010 when Pruitt was defensive backs coach, and the two split in 2014 and 2015 when he was the Gamecocks’ offensive coordinator while Pruitt was the Georgia Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator.
Simply put, Elliott will make sure his team is not intimidated by this game. Georgia State may be a heavy underdog, but Elliott’s coaching and the returning talent could make this Sun Belt team a bit scarier than you might think.
Despite Georgia State’s potential to take a step forward and Shawn Elliott’s familiarity with the Vols, this game won’t be close. Tennessee football Georgia State will take a step forward this year. But it won’t happen in this game. Tennessee football has a high spread, and they will cover with their offense. That unit will also help this game hit the over. The Vols dominate from start to finish in an easy blowout.