KEYS TO THE GAME:
For Tennessee, they have to play their game. The Volunteers defense has steadily improved over the last several weeks. If they are able to do so again they should dominate the Blue Raiders offense. On the offensive side of the ball, the Vols must get something going. They have failed to score a touchdown in their last two game. Justin Worley is going to have to show there is a reason they pulled of the redshirt and frankly a reason why he is on scholarship at the University of Tennessee.
MTSU BLUE RAIDERS
Middle Tennessee State is going to have to come out firing on all cylinders. Luckily, for them the crowd will likely be borderline embarrassing and they won't have to deal with a hostile crowd. They must come out fast and play solid defense to get the Vols off balance and frustrated early. If they can shake the team's confidence in Justin Worley they could have a shot.
— Since 2006, Tennessee has won nine consecutive games over in-state opponents.
— Over the last two years, 43 Tennessee Volunteers have made their first Division I FBS starts.
— Freshman linebacker A.J. Johnson leads the Volunteers in tackles with 57, the most among SEC freshmen.
— The Blue Raiders only have 35 penalties in 2011, which is No. 1 in the Sun Belt Conference.
— Head coach Rick Stockstill is tied for the all-time most wins in school history with 35 victories
— Over the past 34 games, the Blue raiders have blocked 18 kicks (11 FGs, 5 punts, 2 PATs).
Justin Worley — 10-26, 105 yds., 0 TD/2 INT
Tauren Poole — 116 att., 462 yds., 2 TD
Da'Rick Rogers — 37 catches, 608 yds., 6 TD
Logan Kilgore — 173-290, 1869 yds., 16 TD/9 INT
William Pratcher — 83 att., 445 yds., 2 TD
Alshon Jeffery — 39 catches, 446 yds., 6 TD
WHAT A WIN MEANS:
For Tennessee, a win would is absolutely necessary. If they can't get it done against this in-state opponent you can kiss the bowl season goodbye. The Vols should out-man MTSU at every position and their is no excuse to lose a game like this. Tennessee should definitely walk through this game with ease.
For MTSU, this game would be monumental for their program. They are catching Tennessee at a bad time and to bite them would be a huge accomplishment for the MTSU program. If they are able to get a win in Knoxville their 3-5 record will look BEAUTIFUL.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Justin Worley (freshman, quarterback)
Once again, Justin Worley is on the hot seat. He has yet to shown just cause why Derek Dooley pulled of the redshirt and put him in the driver's seat of the Tennessee squad. This game is an opportunity for him to gain the trust of his team.
MTSU is a much weaker defense than what he saw a week ago and he will need to take advantage of that and go after the Blue Raiders. If Worley can get hot in this game it might give the Vols some confidence heading into next week's game at Arkansas.
Tennessee wide receivers (various)
With Worley at the helm again the wide receivers must help out the young freshman. First, they have to get open, which they have been doing. Second, they have to catch the ball, which they haven't been doing.
Da' Rick Rogers dropped a touchdown pass that could have change the game last week and Worley needs a lot more help than that to gain his confidence.
Justin Coleman (freshman, cornerback)
Coleman is going to get his first start since the opening game of the season with Montana. There is a lot of questions in the Vols secondary and this is Coleman's chance to get back in the mix.
He is bracketed with Marsalis Teague whose struggles have been well documented. If Coleman is able to separate himself he might be able to solidify a spot in the starting lineup for the rest of 2011.
Eric Russell (returner, senior)
If MTSU is going to have any shot to stay in this game they are going to have to make some plays in the special teams game. Russell is their speedster who also plays safety. If he is able to get loose a couple of times this could be a whole new ball game.
The Volunteers special teams coverage has been superb in 2011 so it doesn't seem likely, but if there are any break downs at all Russell has to take advantage in a big way.