Tyler Bray is a bold, strong-armed quarterback with a knack for big plays and, occasionally, big mistakes. Tyler Russell is steady and efficient, if unspectacular. He rarely makes mistakes, but he doesn't attempt nearly as many passes as Bray and isn't nearly as dangerous. Edge: Tennessee.
Mississippi State's Ladarius Perkins and Tennessee's Rajion Neal are both enjoying their first year as full-time No. 1 tailbacks. Both players are near the top of the league leaderboard. Perkins is picking up six yards per carry, albeit against suspect opponents. Edge: Even.
Wide receivers/tight ends
Tennessee tight end Mychal Rivera stepped up two weeks ago at Georgia when the Bulldogs tried to take Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson out of the game. The Vols' receiving corps is deeper than they get credit for. Senior wideout Chad Bumphis is a reliable option for MSU. Edge: Tennessee.
Tennessee's line is coming off its best performance of the year — and perhaps its best performance in several years. Mississippi State also has a solid unit. Both lines rarely surrender sacks. Edge: Tennessee.
Both teams would love to get more pressure on the quarterback. Tennessee has hurried opponents occasionally, but gotten precious few sacks. Nose guard Daniel McCullers' role is continuing to expand. Edge: Even.
Tennessee's Curtis Maggitt has had a couple weeks to rest an injured turf toe, but he's also missed valuable practice time that coach Derek Dooley says he needs. MSU will move around and show unusual looks, trying to confuse Bray. Edge: Even.
MSU's Johnathan Banks is one of the league's top defensive players and he's combined with fellow cornerback Darius Slay to make seven interceptions. Tennessee will try to shake up the secondary with new faces, including freshman LaDarrell McNeil and former walk-on Jaron Toney. Edge: MSU.
The revolving door of Tennessee kickers has swung back to Michael Palardy this week. If nothing else, the Vols need to make sure the extra-point problems have been fixed. MSU hasn't been perfect in the field goal department, either. Both squads have solid coverage teams. Edge: MSU.
Dan Mullen's victory over Auburn earlier this year looks less like a signature, marquee victory than it did in Week 2. Still, Mullen has brought enthusiasm and a clear-cut identity to a program that has traditionally been near the bottom of the league. This victory would be the biggest of Derek Dooley's Tennessee tenure and help the team manage a tough road ahead. Edge: Even.
Davis Wade Stadium doesn't seat as many fans as stadiums at Tennessee, Alabama or Florida, but the home-field advantage there is very real, even without cowbells. With a late kickoff, an undefeated record and a national ranking, MSU will be revved up for this game. Edge: MSU.
Tennessee 28, MSU 27.
Tennessee is 0-2 in the league after two late-game meltdowns against Florida and Georgia. If the Vols play a four-quarter game and cut out the miscues that have plagued both sides of the ball, they have the talent to win this one.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.