The Nissan Stadium field is primed, Tennessee fans are tailgating in the parking lot and Team 119 is just a few hours removed from opening the 2015 season in Nashville.
Tennessee is hoping to stoke the hype flames Saturday with a convincing win over the MAC East champion Falcons as it begins the third season of the Butch Jones era. There are plenty of ways the Vols can codify a big victory, but success in these three key areas will likely bring home a win for Tennessee.
Establish the run earlyBowling Green’s aggressive gave up 202.14 yards per game on the ground last season. Tennessee, on the other hand, ended the season ranked No. 92 in the country in rushing offense with only 146.38 rushing yards a matchup. That number is sure to go up with Josh Dobbs' legs, Alvin Kamara's addition and a year of maturity on the O-line, the Vols will have to put their stamp on the turf today. With the Falcons’ defensive front returning three starters and the Vols tinkering with a shuffling offensive line, establishing a ground game with Hurd and Kamara early is paramount to both keeping Bowling Green’s high-tempo offense of the field and scoring points.
TurnoversIt’s an age-old adage: Win the turnover battle, win the game. While that’s not always necessarily true, it’s almost always one critical area that brings success to a team. Bowling Green boasted the 17th-best turnover margin in the country last season at +10 and thrived on key takeaways in big-time situations. The Vols want to win the turnover battle and stop quarterback Matt Johnson and Bowling Green from building offensive momentum.
Score in the red zoneThis sounds simple enough, and last season for Tennessee, it almost was. The Vols finished the season ranked No. 5 in red zone conversion, scoring on 92 percent of their possessions inside the 20. On the flip side, Bowling Green was 32nd in stopping opponents from converting in the red zone with a 77 percent allowance rate. Tennessee punched in 33 touchdowns to just 17 field goals in the red zone last season, and they’ll need a similar rate to knock off the Falcons.
If the Vols are able to accomplish these three things, Tennessee fans will be dancing in downtown Nashville after a solid victory to open the season against a perennial MAC title contender.