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Vols Biggest Storylines Going Into The Arkansas Game

Streak Of The Week

Eight: the number of consecutive games Jarrett Guarantano has started at quarterback. Which brings us back to…

The Never Ending QB Controversy

Hooray, I get to use the exact same heading as before the Alabama game! Pruitt announced earlier this week that Jarrett Guarantano would be the starting quarterback for the game against Arkansas. Again. You, the reader, are probably tired of hearing about it. I know I, the writer, am tired of writing about it. Yet here we are.

Can it even be considered a “controversy” at this point? Doesn’t the word “controversy” simply an issue that could reasonably go one way or another? Reasonably, there is no reason to keep sending Guarantano back out. Everybody knows what the team will get with Guarantano. Everyone except for the coaching staff, apparently.

Two Teams Going In Different Directions

Tennessee came into this season on an absolute tear, winning seven of their last eight games last year, including finishing the season on a six-game streak. Following that up with wins in their first two games of the season seemed to point towards Tennessee being “almost back.” At least they closed the gap with the top of the league a little bit, right?

Well, after three consecutive games against Georgia, Kentucky, and Alabama that can only be characterized as disastrous, Tennessee’s football program and its fans are back on the verge of total mental and emotional collapse.

Meanwhile, Arkansas went through two seasons and experienced precisely four wins. None of which were against power five opponents. They had an 0-16 SEC record over two years and decided to hire a position coach as their new head coach. Needless to say, expectations were pretty low going into the conference only schedule this year.

Well, they’ve given everyone they’ve played a close game this year, including not one but TWO SEC wins already. And that’s only halfway through the season. Sam Pittman is an early candidate for SEC Coach of the Year.

Make no mistake; this is a pivotal game for both teams. Tennessee is on the verge of another collapse back into oblivion but can get the season back on track with a decisive win. Arkansas can firmly stamp themselves as a middle of the pack SEC team with a win. Pretty incredible given the couple preceding seasons in Fayetteville.

Remember When Tennessee Could Actually Run The Ball?

In the first two games of the season against South Carolina and Mizzou, Tennessee ran the ball 84 times for 365 yards and six touchdowns. That’s an average of 4.4 yards per carry if you don’t have a calculator nearby.

In the three games since against Georgia, Kentucky, and Alabama, the proverbial wheels have come off. They ran the ball 106 times for 313 yards and one rushing touchdown. That’s an average of 3 yards per carry if you still don’t have a calculator nearby.

What changed? Did the running backs stop trying? Did the offensive line fall apart? Is it a lack of commitment to the ground game from the play callers? If I knew, I would try and get UT to pay me a ton of money. But I imagine it is a combination of a lot of things.

Can Pruitt Rally?

Yet another header borrowed from before the Alabama game. Because nothing has changed since.

Look, I’ve tried to go to bat for the guy. I like the good ol’ boy, football guy deal he’s got going on. And, frankly, he’s been a breath of fresh air off the field immediately following the era of used car salesman Butch Jones.

But on the field, he’s running out of grace with a lot of people. At Tennessee, you’re supposed to consistently beat the teams you’re “supposed” to beat, and at least keep it close with Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. We all know he hasn’t done the latter, and he’s been hit or miss at best with the former.

Coming off of a bye week, this would be a good chance for Pruitt to right his ship and get a win over an Arkansas team he is “supposed” to beat. If he loses here, the only game left on the schedule Pruitt is “supposed” to win is Vanderbilt. Does anybody think he would keep it close against Auburn, TAMU, or Florida after losing to Arkansas? Let alone win?

Finishing this season 3-7 would be a disaster for this Tennessee program. It all falls to Pruitt to keep that from happening.

Turnovers

Streak Of The Week: Part Deux! Tennessee is currently in the middle of a miraculous run of scoring for the wrong team. For three straight games, Tennessee’s offense has scored for the other team at least once. I don’t know how to make that sentence more sad than it already is.

But don’t worry, Arkansas’ defense has forced more turnovers than any other team in the SEC. Look for Guarantano to turn the ball over two or three times, get benched when the game is officially out of Tennessee’s reach, and start again against TAMU next weekend because that’s where this Tennessee team is at right now.

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