2019 Game 1 Preview: Tennessee
College football is finally back – and it is mere hours before the ball is kicked in Neyland Stadium The Tennessee Volunteers will host the Georgia State Panthers Saturday, August 31 at 3:30pm. The fall camps are over and the score counts for real now.
The 2018 season left a bad taste in the Panthers’ mouths. The prospect of going on the road to an SEC school for the opening game this year might seem daunting. But the players and coaches for GSU are eager for the opportunity to play anyone just to show they’re better than what their play suggested last season. QB Dan Ellington is back for his second year under center for State and, simply put, the Panthers will need a great day from Dan if they want to pull off the upset. Coach Elliott has signalled the offense under new offensive coordinator Brad Glenn will feature more option concepts than Georgia State fans are used to seeing It will be interesting to watch exactly how this manifests in the game plan for Saturday.
Tennessee will come into this as a 26-point favorite, with a bevy of 4 and 5-star talent in head coach Jeremy Pruitt’s arsenal. They’ll be playing in front of their home fans for the first time in almost a year – so the odds aren’t in the Panthers’ favor. The Vols have an experienced wide receiver corps led by seniors Marquez Callaway and Jauan Jennings. Additionally, this will be the third year for starting quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, so this is a year Vols fans will want to see a step-up in the passing game. While new OC Jim Chaney will look to run the ball early and often, the Panthers’ secondary will have to be ready to be tested by the wideouts of Tennessee. Chaney is going to want to get Guarantano comfortable in his system in non-conference play so he’s ready to roll by the time the Vols face off against SEC competition.
On defense, the Panthers will have to get to the quarterback. Tennessee’s offensive line is a little in flux, with no set starters according to the depth chart released by the school earlier in the week. It’s a unit with a lot of talent, to be sure, but whether the five who line up together on Saturday gel well from the first snap isn’t clear. GSU will need good days from Dontae Wilson and Terry Thomas up front to solidify the run defense and they will need impact players in the pass rush to show up. On the back end, Quavian White is listed as questionable with an ankle injury, so sophomore Tyler Gore and true freshman Cameron Sims may see increased time at cornerback.
It’s no easy feat to simply walk into Neyland Stadium and come away with a win. If the Panthers can win the turnover margin – or, at worst, come out even – limit the big plays and stay healthy, they will be able to hang around in this game for a while and give themselves a chance. Any head football coach will be quick to tell you there is no such thing as a moral victory. But, if the Panthers can perform well and handle the things they can handle, they can take some positive lessons into the rest of the season even if the talent of Tennessee wins out on the day.