KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee has a stranglehold on the SEC East after a pair of thrilling comeback wins over rivals Florida and Georgia.
Can the Volunteers steal one in Texas before hosting Alabama next weekend?
After nailing all five predictions for the Florida game, I was just 3-of-5 last week.
Let’s see if I can bat 1.000 again this week.
Here are five predictions for No. 9 Tennessee at No. 8 Texas A&M (3:30 p.m., CBS).
1. Can the Volunteers put together a 60-minute performance?
They need to if they want to stay undefeated.
Tennessee has been outscored 41-10 in the first quarter, and while the comebacks have been impressive, the rallies have certainly masked some deficiencies that could be exposed against UT’s most competitive opponent to date.
The Volunteers have struggled to consistency run the football, averaging just 4.06 yards per carry.
Headlined by Myles Garret, Texas A&M touts a veteran defense — with 10 of 11 starters being upperclassmen.
To avoid another slow start, Josh Dobbs needs to have more designed runs early. Tennessee’s attack is so much more dangerous when Dobbs is involved on just about every play.
2. Will Jalen Hurd play?
There’s been a lot of speculation about Hurd’s availability, but ultimately, I believe Hurd will not play Saturday.
The mystery surrounding Tennessee’s tailback has been rather strange this week, though, as Hurd exited the Georgia game with a “lower extremity injury,” but he was back on the field for the Volunteers final kickoff return before the Hail Mary.
On Monday, coach Butch Jones said Hurd would be “full go” at practice, but then Hurd was downgraded to “day-to-day” later in the week.
Jones refused to comment further on Hurd’s status, too, saying “we don’t discuss injuries.”
On the season, Hurd has rushed for 407 yards and 2 touchdowns.
3. Who has the better performance: Myles Garrett or Derek Barnett?
Both All-American pass rushers are freaks, but since Garrett is hobbled by a leg injury (and it’s not for certain he will play), I’m going with the Tennessee pass rusher.
Barnett has been a one-man wrecking crew the last two weeks, totaling 4 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss.
Like Tennessee, the Aggies have questions along the offense line, especially at tackle, as starting right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor didn’t even play last week.
4. Over/under 3.5 total touchdowns for Josh Dobbs?
Under. Dobbs has been on fire lately, scoring 9 total touchdowns the last two weeks. He’s been unflappable under pressure, too, calmly engineering these comebacks with some Houdini runs and timely throws. He’ll get his vs. Texas A&M, but John Chavis won’t let Tennessee’s quarterback beat them this week.
5. Can the Volunteers win three-straight games over ranked foes?
Tennessee’s injuries finally catch up to them. The lack of depth at linebacker was exposed at times in the miracle win over Georgia and Texas A&M possesses the best group of skill-players in the SEC.
This is the first week where the Volunteers really feel the hurt of no Cam Sutton — make it 12 straight losses agains the SEC West.