4 Keys to the Game for Tennessee When Facing Mississippi State
Tennessee is facing a game that many are calling a must win.
It's hard to argue the point, considering the two games following Mississippi State are against No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 South Carolina.
Saturday's game is an opportunity for the Vols to get their first win against a ranked opponent under head coach Derek Dooley.
Tennessee has shown the potential to win games and are poised to turn around the program. A victory in Starkville would go a long way in helping the Vols return to SEC prominence.
There are several factors that the Vols will need to address to have an opportunity to win this game.
Coming off their bye week, this is a good opportunity for Tennessee. If they are able to correct some of the mistakes that have plagued them, the Vols will have a chance for a victory.
If issues haven't been corrected, it may be a long day for the orange clad faithful.
Stop the Run
It's common knowledge that the Tennessee defense has been gashed, gouged, smashed, crashed and outclassed by opposing running backs all season.
Tennessee has given up numerous big plays on the ground, leading to their two losses on the year. They have also allowed big plays in victory.
If corrections were not made during the bye week, then Saturday should prove to be no different.
Mississippi State has a pretty good running game. These aren't the bruisers that the Bulldogs have had in the past, instead they have speedier backs that are the typical staple in SEC play.
They have a trio of talented backs with LaDarius Perkins leading the way with 499 yards on the season.
If Tennessee's defense is able to prevent the big running plays, they will give the offense a chance to jump out to a lead.
Tennessee Must Attack in the Passing Game
The Bulldogs have one of the better secondaries in the country. They are anchored by two potential early draft picks at cornerback.
This is something that the Vols have faced before (see the opener against NC State for proof). In that game, Tennessee torched the highly touted Wolfpack secondary, and the plan should be the same this weekend against Mississippi State.
It's well known that Tennessee's best weapons are quarterback Tyler Bray and his talented group of receivers, and the best thing to do with your weapons is attack.
If the Vols can do this effectively and build an early lead, it will help their chances of walking away from this game with a victory.
Kicking Game Must Be on Track
If there is one aspect of this year's Tennessee team that has been questionable, it's the kicking game.
The issue isn't the number of missed field goals, but rather the fact that the longest kick on the season is only 37 yards.
The inability to kick long field goals can really hamstring the offense. It erases a chance to put valuable points on the board once a drive stalls.
This matchup looks to be very tight and could come down to a kick late in the game.
Michael Palardy has moved back into the kicking role. If the game comes down to a late kick, he will need to answer the call.
Be Prepared for the Cowbell
Clang, clang, clang, clang.
This is the predominant sound heard by the opponents of Mississippi State, the sound ringing from cowbells that Bulldog fans are famous for.
If you've never heard one before, it's a very unnerving and annoying sound.
This may not seem like a big deal, but it can have an adverse effect on visiting teams. Meaning, the fans will have the ability to stunt the Vols no-huddle attack.
With the no-huddle, any disruption can be disastrous. If the players are unable to hear the play calls, the Vols could be in trouble.
If Tennessee is able to survive the initial onslaught of clanging, they will have a great chance to silence the noise for the remainder of the night.
Accomplish this, and a win may just be in Tennessee's near future.