Evan Woodbery: Tennessee, Mississippi State both have advantages

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray (8) is hit by Georgia linebacker Amarlo Herrera (52) as he releases a pass in the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, in Athens, Ga. Georgia won 51-44. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray (8) is hit by Georgia linebacker Amarlo Herrera (52) as he releases a pass in the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, in Athens, Ga. Georgia won 51-44. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Quarterbacks

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.

Running backs

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.

Offensive line

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.

Defensive line

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.

Linebackers

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.

Secondary

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.

Special teams

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.

Coaching

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.

Intangibles

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.

Pick

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.

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Comments » 15

GatorHater1998 writes:

FIRST

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You are our biggest weakness.

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

I'm really getting sick of this crapola.

Sure, Johnthan Banks is good, and so is Darius Slay -- specially against weakling opponents.

I would just like to point out to you disrespecting writers that UT's Byron Moore is kicking both their butts so far this year, against much tougher opponents. He has as many total tackles than Banks and Slay combined. He has 20 solo tackles, and they each have 12. He leads the SEC in interceptions, and is second in the conference in interception return yards (more than either Banks or Slay).

The ONLY stat that MSU's secondary leads UT's in is passes defended, where they have one more per game.

Maybe you can give their secondary an edge over ours due to a couple of new guys being put in there on our side, but at least mention them. As I recall, NC State's secondary was given a big edge over ours too. How'd that work out?

AllforTenn writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Think so? What would you know about coaching? MSU was mediocre when Mullen took over. UT was going down and scraping the bottom when Dooley took over.

CantStandCantStandSaban writes:

in response to AllforTenn:

Think so? What would you know about coaching? MSU was mediocre when Mullen took over. UT was going down and scraping the bottom when Dooley took over.

Yep, you're right. But you can't reason with a buffoon. Your best bet is to ignore him.

Joined around month ago, over 400 comments since then. 99.9% of the negative. That should tell you something.

jobrando#216494 writes:

VOLS 42 COW BELLS 11

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to CantStandCantStandSaban:

Yep, you're right. But you can't reason with a buffoon. Your best bet is to ignore him.

Joined around month ago, over 400 comments since then. 99.9% of the negative. That should tell you something.

That was just when toddyboy's last username (greatest) was banned and he had to get a new one with which to babble on endlessly with his stupidity. I'd say it's more like 100% negative though.

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Funny, I don't remember giving you permission to comment.

Classof72 writes:

"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."

Really? Whose defense have you been watching? Being slow in the secondary isn't exactly a 'miscue', it's a lack of ability. You can't coach speed, you have to recruit it.

BruisedOrange writes:

"Tyler Bray is a bold, strong-armed quarterback with a knack for big plays and, occasionally, big mistakes."

If State's penchant for interceptions is legit, then how is it advantage Bray?

Not sure if that's a legit question, or just conditioning myself against a late-night disappointment.

It's going to take us a while to get used to having a good team again--but I believe we do now.

SewaneeVolFan writes:

Positive post (trolls, doom prophets, and negatroids, please go away):

This could be one of the most exciting games of the Vol season as well as the breakthrough game against a ranked opponent.

Strong Vol receivers against a strong secondary.

A Vol o-line beginning to seize its opportunities.

A comparatively inexperienced (due to injuries and coaches' decisions) gunslinger quarterback taking advantage of the chance to show he can manage a game.

A young running back getting coached up by a former Vol great to start looking like an SEC-level inside-outside-good receiving back.

An underrated defensive line, with McCullers beginning to see that he could really be good, and could earn himself a large paycheck some day soon.

I'm always nervous and will never count a victory until the clock says the game's over, but I'm optimistic about the team, the coaches (especially the head coach) and the result! Go Big Orange!

6972 writes:

in response to jobrando#216494:

VOLS 42 COW BELLS 11

Man, do I ever hope you are right. I have to wonder about your spread. We need a win badly because the patience of a lot of fans is wearing thin. The question is, if we should lose (and heaven forbid that we do) how much patience does the AD have? Go Vols.

usnavyvolfan__times_free_press_can_shove_it writes:

in response to jobrando#216494:

VOLS 42 COW BELLS 11

Um....seen our defense lately? MSU will score fewer points than GA State did? I do think we'll win, though.

mdvol writes:

Two things I'm confident of....

VOLS by 2 touchdowns.
Another chick sues UT on Monday.

Olddogsrule writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Dooley is not a darling to anybody but his wife and mother. For the rest of us he's a Man with the cajones to take on possibly the toughest rebuilding job in 20 or 30 years for a major program and doing a darn good job!

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