The Vols open their 2018 home slate against their brethren from Johnson City. East Tennessee State, a member of the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision will travel down from the Tri-Cities area to take on the Vols. This is a perfect opportunity for the home squad to exorcise any lingering side effects from last week’s 40-14 drubbing by West Virginia. The talent discrepancy is obvious between the two schools. However, these teams have some common ground. Let’s take a look at the numbers to see what similarities exist:
11 – Why is this number important? ETSU coach Randy Sanders won’t be the only familiar face roaming the sidelines for the Buccaneers. 11 Knoxville products are listed on the ETSU roster. Fans will have an opportunity to witness a young program being constructed with the help of local talent.
Balance – This isn’t an exact number, but a near even split on offense is what these teams accomplished in their respective opening games. ETSU accumulated 511 yards of total offense against Mars Hill. Tennessee only gained 301 versus the Mountaineers. But the balance is evident. The Bucs rushed for 238 yards and threw for 273. This was good for 47/53 percentage split when rounding to the nearest whole number. The Vols had a 43/57 split by rushing for 129 yards and passing for 172.
Key Offensive Players – Both teams revealed their go-to guys on offense in their opening games. Tim Jordan’s numbers were eerily similar to Bucs’ lead back Quay Holmes. Jordan had 20 carries for 125 yards and a touchdown. Holmes carried the rock 17 times for 118 yards and a touchdown. Bucs quarterback Logan Marchi had a terrific day, throwing for 273 yards and three touchdowns. His primary target was Quan Harrison, who had five catches for 112 yards and a touchdown. Vols QB Jarrett Guarantano didn’t quite see that type of production, but he still revealed his primary target by connecting with Marquez Callaway eight times for 75 yards.
Total Defense – In terms of tackling, both teams were balanced on defense. The result was beneficial for ETSU. The same can’t be said for the Vols, who showed poor tackling assignments. Yet, the leading tacklers for each team walked away with 10. Jeremy Lewis and Dylan Weigel each had 10 total tackles for ETSU. Darrin Kirkland, Jr. tallied 10 for the Vols. The Bucs were able to produce two turnovers, while Tennessee has yet to capitalize on that front.
0 – No field goals have been made by either squad. The only difference being that the Bucs have attempted two. Vols kicker Brent Cimaglia has yet to make an attempt. Who will break the ice first? There is a good possibility that a field goal might be the only score ETSU walks away with.
1 – One is the loneliest number, right? Well, I don’t know if ETSU will feel too lonely after cashing in $500,000 for this game. That’s how much the school will receive for making the short trip to Knoxville. It is also the first ever meeting between the two schools. The Bucs were without a football program from 2004-2014. They are also the only FCS opponent for the Vols. Likewise, Tennessee is the only FBS opponent for ETSU. The Bucs are currently scheduled to play six FBS schools between now and 2024, including two games apiece against Vanderbilt and Appalachian State.
2 – We will stick with the theme of numerical order and provide a number that might surprise folks. Neyland Stadium is not the biggest venue ETSU has played in. Tennessee and ETSU are two of only four teams to play a collegiate football game at Bristol Motor Speedway. The Bucs played just a week after the Vols in 2016 against Virginia Tech. ETSU defeated Western Carolina on Sept. 17, 2016. According to WJHL, the Bucs played in front of a record crowd of nearly 14,000. I think it’s safe to say that number will change on Saturday.