Thursday night’s SEC game features two teams wearing orange desperate to forget what happened a year ago. Tennessee football, under a new head coach in Josh Heupel and on the heels of a 3-7 season, will be hosting the Bowling Green Falcons, who are coming off an 0-5 campaign and entering their third year under new head coach Scot Loeffler.
This is the first matchup between these two schools since 2015 in Nashville, when the Butch Jones-led Vols beat a Dino Babers-led BGSU team 59-30. It’s the first Thursday night game for UT since 2016, when they beat the Appalachian State Mountaineers in overtime.
With a normal season back, excitement is oozing through everybody on Rocky Top. Although Tennessee football is expected to win this game easily, as we know, anything can happen in an opener. Let’s go ahead and break down what will dictate the way this matchup goes. These are our 10 keys to the Vols and BGSU game.
10. Offseason rust
Both programs played a bit later in the regular season than they would have last year given the COVID-altered schedules. However, neither of them played as late as they would have played had they gone to a bowl game. UT did receive an invite to the Liberty Bowl but had to pull out of it due to a COVID outbreak in the program.
The extra game isn’t the only thing that could help offset rust from the offseason in the next year’s opener. There are extra practices as well, which allows teams to gel. Sure, both teams have lots of new faces, and UT has a new head coach, but those practices could have helped the returning players, regardless of who was leading them.
As a result, both teams will likely be rusty from the offseason. Tennessee football played more recently than BGSU, but it likely doesn’t make a difference. If the Vols come out more rusty, this could be a closer game than it should be early on.