After a disappointing 5-7 season a year ago, Tennessee will look to turn things around this season with an opening game against Austin Peay.
The SEC team only won a single conference game in 2012, and that did not happen until the last day of the year. However, new coach Butch Jones will look to turn things around right away after a few successful seasons at Cincinnati.
That might not be too difficult to do in the first matchup of the year. Austin Peay was one of the worst teams in the country last season while finishing 2-9 overall. The squad gave up at least 30 points to every Division I opponent it faced.
While the Governors hope to turn things around under Kirby Cannon, it will likely be a long rebuilding process at this Ohio Valley Conference school.
Still, this first game will be a nice test for Tennessee to see the improvements it has made over the past few months heading into the season. Here is a guide to the matchup to make sure you do not miss a second of the action.
When: Saturday, Aug. 31 at 6 p.m. ET
Where: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tenn.
TV: PPV on ESPN Gameplan
Live Stream: ESPN3
Injury Report (via USA Today)
Curt Maggitt, LB, Questionable (Knee)
Michael Williams, DB, Questionable (Undisclosed)
Riyahd, DB, Out indefinitely (Calf)
Spread: Tennessee -51
Austin Peay Player to Watch: Terrence Oliver, RB/WR
Although Austin Peay does not have a lot of talent returning from last season, Terrence Oliver is someone who can impress in this game.
The versatile running back and receiver totaled 382 rushing yards to go with 328 receiving yards last year while also contributing as a kick returner. His four touchdowns from scrimmage ranked second on the team behind Devin Stark.
There are question marks all over the field for the Governors, but the team will be much more successful if they find more ways to get the ball to Oliver.
Tennessee Player to Watch: Justin Worley, QB
Justin Worley has the hold on the starting quarterback job for the Volunteers, but Nathan Peterman is not far behind him on the depth chart. This means that he better come through in the first game, otherwise it will leave questions going forward.
The junior has minimal game experience after sitting behind Tyler Bray for the past two seasons. He appeared in three games last year while completing 15 of his 23 passes for 134 yards. Unfortunately, he had two interceptions and no touchdowns.
Still, the quarterback has a big frame and a strong arm to make people believe he can quickly fill in for Bray to start the year. If he can make smart decisions on the field, Tennessee will be in good shape this season.
Prediction: Tennessee 45, Austin Peay 17
Both defenses struggled last season and there have not been enough improvements to believe this will be anything other than a shootout.
However, Tennessee has a lot more talent on the offensive side of the football and should be able to use this game to gain plenty of confidence heading into the rest of the year.
With road games against Oregon and Florida taking place in September, the Volunteers better work out the kinks as quickly as possible to help prepare for these difficult matchups. Fortunately, this first game should be mostly smooth sailing.
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