It took a weak in-state team with a 2-5 record to get the Vols (4-5) back in the win column last weekend, but as they say, a win is a win.
Tennessee's last two victories on the first Saturday in October and November, respectively, have come against teams from the MAC (Buffalo) and the Sun Belt Conference (MTSU).
That's not exactly confidence-inspiring stuff for a Tennessee team that will travel to BCS No. 8 Arkansas (8-1) Saturday night.
Throw in the fact that the Vols will have a true freshman at quarterback making his first road start against a defense that sacked South Carolina's quarterback five times last weekend, and that confidence level goes from near-nothing to unprecedented depths.
With nearly seven weeks separation since its last loss (a 24-point drubbing at Alabama), Arkansas has quite a bit more riding on this game than the Vols.
The Razorbacks still have a shot at a BCS bowl game, and they could still win the SEC West—albeit a much larger and more difficult task.
Tennessee just wants to go bowling. Due to Tennessee's second consecutive "October from the Netherworld," the Vols are staring down the loaded barrel of a second straight six-loss season with two games yet to play after this weekend.
The Vols are a 13-point underdog to the offensively-gifted Razorbacks.
Here is what you can expect to see Saturday night in Fayetteville.
When Tennessee Has the Ball:
While Arkansas has proven to be a bit susceptible to the run, the Vols have done almost nothing to prove they have the ability to sustain any kind of ground attack.
Unbelievably, the Vols ran the ball better against LSU and Alabama than they did against Florida, Georgia and South Carolina combined.
During last week's no-doubter against Middle Tennessee State, the Tennessee coaching staff tinkered with a wildcat look. Freshman Marlin Lane picked up some decent yardage on a handful of tries from that look.
Another freshman, Jaron Toney, played in his first game for the Vols and ended up with more than 50 yards on 19 carries.
While the two freshman might have provided a decent spark for the Tennessee ground game, there's little faith that Tennessee's backs could repeat anything close to that performance Saturday night against a Top 10 team.
So, again, it will come down to quarterback Justin Worley. A true freshman making just the third start of his career and first on the road must handle an Arkansas defense that has 16 sacks this season and 10 in its last three games.
The Razorbacks are ranked just ninth in the SEC in passing, rushing and total defense, but the pressure this team can bring, coupled with its SEC top five turnover margin, could make life miserable for Tennessee offensively.
When Arkansas Has the Ball
Do we really have to include this part?
Sure, Tennessee's depth-less defense has more than held its own this season, but this Arkansas team is by far the most gifted offense the Vols will face in 2011.
Bobby Petrino's squad has almost 600 more passing yards than the next closest team (Georgia) in the conference. Arkansas is scoring nearly 38 points per game and is averaging more than 450 offensive yards per contest as well.
With Tennessee's notorious struggle of allowing big plays this season, Arkansas sophomore quarterback Tyler Wilson and his group of star-studded receivers have to be licking their chops.
Wilson (2,626 yards, 62-percent completion percentage) will throw early and often against the Vols. Receivers Jarius Wright (101.5 YPG, 9 TDs ) and Joe Adams are two of the fastest ball-catchers in the SEC, and will likely run past Tennessee's defensive backs most of the night.
If the Arkansas pass attack is not enough to worry Vols fans, the Razorbacks have returned four kicks (two punts and two kickoffs) for touchdowns this season.
What Will Happen
It will be deja vu all over again.
Tennessee will keep things close in the first half. The Vols may even lead for a few minutes on Saturday night.
But, as has been the case all season long, Tennessee cannot and will not sustain the necessary defensive pressure to knock off a Top 10 team in their own backyard.
The Vols will score some against this Razorbacks' defense, but by the time Arkansas is finished lighting up the scoreboard, the game will be out of reach.
Prediction: Arkansas 48, Tennessee 24
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