KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The ship is teetering at Tennessee, but the Volunteers have the perfect opponent to correct course and get right on Saturday.
Tennessee (5-3) will host FCS cupcake Tennessee Tech (3-5) at 4 p.m. for homecoming.
The Volunteers are one win away from bowl eligibility.
Here are five predictions for Saturday’s game.
1. Does John Kelly run wild?
Definitely. With Jalen Hurd no longer in the picture, the sophomore tailback received a boatload of praise this week. He runs “angry,” has “crazy legs” and is clearly beloved by his teammates.
Kelly has averaged 6.3 yards per carry in a reserve role this season, rushing for a career-high 94 yards in a loss to South Carolina.
The Golden Eagles tout an average rush defense, so I expect Kelly to record the first 100-yard game of his career Saturday.
2. Can Tennessee end its turnover skid?
The Volunteers have coughed up the football at least once in every game in 2016.
They rank No. 122 nationally in giveaways with 20, and their overall turnover margin (minus-5) ranks No. 109 in the country. Look for Tennessee to finally play a clean game and snap its skid against a FCS patsy.
3. Over/Under .5 touchdowns for Josh Malone?
Over. Malone leads the team in every receiving category — yards (444), receptions (26), touchdowns (5) and yards per catch (17.08) — but his production has tapered off in recent weeks.
The junior opened the season with a score in four straight games, but he hasn’t found the end zone since Sept. 24 against Florida.
I expect that to change Saturday versus the Golden Eagles.
4. How many true freshmen will see significant snaps
Seven. The key word here is “significant.” I expect Tennessee to play a lot of young guys Saturday, starting with offensive tackle Marcus Tatum, safety Nigel Warrior, linebacker Daniel Bituli, tailback Carlin Fils-aime, cornerbacks Marquil Osbourne and Baylen Buchanan and wideout Brandon Johnson.
Receivers Brandon Johnson and Marquez Callaway could play some, too.
5. Will Quinton Dormady set a career-high in passing yards, attempts?
The sophomore quarterback has just 39 yards on four attempts this season, only seeing action at the end of the Alabama blowout loss. Dormany threw for a career-best 93 yards on 6 of 8 passing against Western Carolina last season.
Look for the Texas native to surpass those numbers playing a bunch of snaps in the second half Saturday.