Tennessee Volunteers Football: 5 Reasons Why MTSU Will Still Be a Blowout
Justin Worley fell flat against South Carolina's defense. He threw two interceptions in the red zone before being benched in favor of Matt Simms.
Da'Rick Rogers had an uncharacteristically bad game.
The defense couldn't stop the run, and Brent Brewer is also out for the season with a leg injury.
Lots of bad news came out of the South Carolina game, but it doesn't matter this Saturday because Tennessee is playing MTSU.
Worley will start again and the Vols are hobbled, to say the least, but the game will still be a blowout. Here are five reasons why.
1. The Defense Is Improving
It didn't look like it against South Carolina, but I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that was a judgment call.
South Carolina ran all over Tennessee, but that's all they did. I was furious for a while at the game, but before too long, I recognized Tennessee was trying to prevent the pass.
The name of the game was prevent: Make South Carolina fight for every yard and hope our offense can score.
The Tennessee defense was on the field for over 36 minutes against South Carolina and only gave up 14 points. That's actually pretty darn good.
Furthermore, Prentiss Waggner looked like himself again when he nabbed a 54-yard interception. It would have put Tennessee in scoring position if Worley didn't immediately turn it back over to the Gamecocks.
Tennessee might have given up a lot of yards to the rush, but South Carolina only passed for 87 yards (and that one guy Alshon Jeffery is pretty good, too). The defense is finally starting to click.
2. Worley Will Play Safer
Worley was straight up horrible against South Carolina. Say what you want about South Carolina's defense (like the fact they're first against the pass in the FBS), but there's no denying it—Worley played like crap.
He's obviously way behind where Tyler Bray was last year, but he's also obviously a good player. He was the Gatorade Player of the year as a senior and had scholarship offers from quite a few schools.
He forced a lot of throws against South Carolina, and it came back to bite him (twice). You can bet he won't do that this time.
Against MTSU, expect him to check down to Mychal Rivera or dump it off to Tauren Poole/Rajion Neal/Marlin Lane/Devrin Young a lot more often until he finds his groove. Or until Da'Rick Rogers is wide open downfield again.
3. MTSU Just Lost Their Offensive Coordinator/Running Backs Coach
Tennessee has had its share of off-the-field adversity this season, but at least Jim Chaney didn't walk out for "personal reasons," like MTSU's Willie Simmons did.
I'm sure he had very good reasons to walk out on his team midseason, but something like that can really mess with a team's mojo.
MTSU's running backs have still been doing fine without him. Willie Pratcher ran for 198 yards in the two games they've played since Simmons' departure, but when they play a higher-end team like Tennessee, not having Simmons around will probably hurt.
4. DeAnthony Arnett
He has really stepped up since Justin Hunter's injury.
Against South Carolina, with Da'Rick Rogers covered by Stephon Gilmore all night, Worley had trouble completing passes. Luckily, Arnett was there to be consistent.
Arnett caught only three passes, but those three passes totaled 59 yards of offense (more than half of Worley's total).
Those three catches were his first since the Georgia game, when Tyler Bray was still throwing the ball. That shows me he has shown real improvement and will continue to do so against MTSU.
Furthermore, MTSU's top defensive back will be on Da'Rick Rogers, so Arnett will get the more favorable matchup. Expect him to have a breakout game against MTSU.
5. MTSU Really Is That Bad
MTSU's current record: 2-5
Those two wins came against Memphis (by a touchdown) and Florida Atlantic. Last week, they got blown out by Louisiana-Lafayette.
For the record, Memphis is 2-5 so far and Florida Atlantic has yet to win a game.
MTSU's defense allows an average of 34.3 points per game—that makes them 107th in the FBS. For those of you bad at math, that means only 13 teams in the FBS have allowed more points per game than MTSU.
Their offense looks respectable on paper, averaging 29.9 points a game, but when you look closely, you see that nearly half of those points (over 13 points per game) are obtained in the fourth quarter or later, when teams switch to prevent defense.
MTSU is simply an inferior team. Worst case scenario (given that Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter, Brent Brewer and probably Herman Lathers will not see playing time), Tennessee wins by a couple of touchdowns, but that's as close as it'll get.