Photo by Danny Parker

5 Questions: Nebraska vs Tennessee

We get an insiders perspective on the Vols from InsideTennessee.com's Danny Parker.

1. How do you shut down Joshua Dobbs?
InsideTennessee: Play disciplined football. If defensive linemen stay in their lanes, prevent cutbacks, keep the senior captain within in a collapsing pocket and force him to make quick decisions, he can be slowed. Dobbs is at his best when things break down on pass plays or when defenders crash down too hard on the running back in gap-read plays. Dobbs seems to make pre-snap decisions on where he's going to throw the football and will even throw into triple-coverage at times. He also has a propensity to fumble. He doesn't have NFL quality in-the-pocket accuracy as a passer. Make him prove that he's worthy of being selected in the NFL Draft as a quarterback instead of allowing him to tack onto his Tennessee-record number of rushing yards for a signal-caller.
2. Friday mid-day contest, do you think we could see both teams struggle to get up for this one?
 
IT: It's hard to speak on Nebraska but if Tennessee is going to circle the wagons and get to 9-4 for the second straight year, it's going to need its fans to get involved and put some pep in their step. Judging by ticket sales, we could see a fair amount of Vols fans in attendance in spite of some imploring others to "boycott" this contest after defeats at the hands of South Carolina and Vanderbilt derailing the season entirely after being a top 10 team steaming toward a College Football Playoff spot. Butch Jones isn't the best motivator in program history, and his team struggled mightily in the first quarter of games for over half the year. If they can keep it even or even take an early lead and keep the crowd involved, that may provide just enough motivation.
3. Give us a player on both offense and defense, that maybe isn't a household name for the Vols, but will play a big factor in this contest?
IT: Derek Barnett is a sack away from passing the late Reggie White on Tennessee's all-time career sack list. He projects to be a first-round NFL Draft choice. However, the defensive end on the other side is no slouch either. Senior Corey Vereen has banged out more sacks each year and has six this season. He recovered a fumble in the end zone in Athens back in October that was game-changing moment and abused Alabama left tackle Cameron Robinson in 2015.
Offensively, Dobbs, running back Alvin Kamara and wide receiver Josh Malone get much of the attention. The player who's been as clutch as anyone has been sophomore pass catcher Jauan Jennings (34 receptions, 521 yards, 7 TDs), who is the former quarterback who came down with the Hail Mary touchdown at Georgia. Dobbs has a tendency to fall in love with targeting Malone, but if he can identify spots where Jennings has a matchup he can win and a route that suits his strengths, Jennings could make some plays on Nebraska.
4. Which program would benefit more from this bowl win?
IT: Tough decision because it's a solid matchup between teams that started out like gangbusters. Momentum into the offseason always starts with bowl performances and many predicting Tennessee to win the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division this past summer did so in part because of how dominant the Vols looked against Northwestern.
One of the greatest things about Tennessee football is its passionate fanbase. One of the worst things about Tennessee football is its fanbase. Some even complained about how the Vols were winning games when they reached a No. 9 ranking and lengthened their winning streak past anything else the program had done this century. The burning brooms and pitchforks are already at the gates. Tennessee needs the win more than Nebraska, even though it won't come close to shutting up some people who put money on this team going at least 10-2 and cruising to Atlanta for the SEC championship, especially after taking down divisional rivals Florida and Georgia. Pile on that Nebraska handled Tennessee in the only two meetings between the blue bloods.
5. Your score prediction and biggest key to the game.
IT: Whether Armstrong or Jordan Westerkamp play or not, Nebraska is going to score points on this Tennessee defense, which is without half a dozen starters. It's a stop-unit that's a shadow of what it was in September. The weeks off since the debacle at Vanderbilt should do wonders for players recovering from midseason injuries like linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. and cornerback Cameron Sutton. However, the absences at defensive tackle and lack of creativity moving the front figure to equal Cornhuskers running up and down the field at Nissan Stadium. Terrell Newby had just 39 yards at Iowa. Look for that number to at least quadruple against the Vols.
Tennessee averaged over 50 points per game in November and should be able to find the end zone in the Music City. But, will it be enough? Not likely. The margin for error is so razor thin for this offense with how awful the defense is, even with some NFL bound players on all three levels (Missouri ran for 420 yards, Vanderbilt threw for 416 yards). Nebraska, 41-28.

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