If Tennessee is going to be successful against North Carolina in the Franklin American Mortgage Company Music City Bowl here Thursday evening the Vols will have to be clicking on all cylinders defensively.
A lot of focus has been on how good Tyler Bray and on the UT offense the last couple of months, the defensive unit has been a little understated.
How important is it for the Vols defensive unit to have a solid performance against the Tar Heels?
For Tennessee to have success against North Carolina several things must happen, a lot of those things being from a defensive standpoint.
Here are our five key factors defensively for Tennessee to be successful in the Music City Bowl.
Defensive Key Factor No. 1
The Vols have to be more physical than North Carolina. The Vols defensive line is somewhat undersized compared to other teams they have faced. They must use their speed and scheme to their advantage to overcome this. They can't afford to be dominated on the line of scrimmage by the Tar Heel offensive line. In last year's Bowl Game in Atlanta, Virginia Tech dominated in the trenches, this can't happen today. Tennessee needs to deliver some hard hits early and show North Carolina that the Tar Heels are going to get a physical effort from the Vols.
Defensive Key Factor No. 2
A solid pass rush is key today for Tennessee. They must get pressure on T.J. Yates and cause him to make some mistakes. Expect Tennessee to dial up some blitzes to help cause some disruption.
Defensive Key Factor No. 3
Tennessee must win the turnover battle. They need to cause some turnovers and a defensive score wouldn't hurt either. The Vols need to cause some fumbles and need to intercept Yates.
Defensive Key Factor No. 4
Tennessee linebackers have to be physical and do a good job against the Tar Heels rushing attack. The can't afford to be knocked off the line of scrimmage and give up big yards in the run game.
Defensive Key Factor No. 5
Tennessee secondary needs to have a solid performance. The Vols can't afford to give up big plays to North Carolina. If they have a solid performance look for UT to have a lot of success in this bowl game.
A lot of focus has been focused on Tennessee defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox the last couple of weeks after rumors circulated out of Austin Texas that he could be Mack Brown's top choice to replace Will Muschamp.
Kudos to Derek Dooley on keeping the focus on his team and the bowl game this week in Nashville, the Wilcox to Texas watch will officially begin after the Vols game with North Carolina.
Dooley and Wilcox has dismissed coaching rumors and have kept all eyes and focus on this bowl game.
Will Wilcox depart Knoxville for Austin in the next week?
Stay tuned to InsideTennessee.com as we cover this developing story.