KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Jeremy Pruitt's first season at Tennessee ended with a thud as he watched his team absorb back-to-back shellackings by a combined score of 88-30 to cost the Volunteers a chance to go to a bowl game. Pruitt expects bigger things in Year 2 at Tennessee, which opens the season against visiting Georgia State on Saturday afternoon.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU. LINE: Tennessee -26.
The Volunteers face a nightmarish Southeastern Conference schedule, with three of the first four games against teams ranked in the top 10, so they cannot afford a slip-up in the season opener. "Well, I think us as coaches we are always looking for the perfect game," Pruitt said. "The number one maxim is the team who makes the fewest mistakes will win. So, first what you got to do is don't beat yourself." Georgia State is coming off a 10-loss season in 2018 and third-year coach Shawn Elliott's main goal is to make sure his team is not beaten before it takes the field. "Don't look at Tennessee as Tennessee, the reputation and traditions; we gotta look at them as they are right now," Elliott said. "They're trying to find their way, their last season wasn't a great season, don't look at that word, Tennessee, and let it fool you and think it's bigger than it is."
ABOUT GEORGIA STATE (2018: 2-10)
The Panthers have an experienced hand at the most important position in dual-threat quarterback Dan Ellington, who threw for 2,119 yards and 12 touchdowns while also rushing for a team-high 625 yards and five scores. Nine starters return on defense but that is not necessarily cause for optimism after the unit ranked last in the Sun Belt Conference last season, allowing an average of 490 yards and 37 points while registering only 13 sacks and six interceptions. Senior Ed Curney, the leading tackler a year ago, leads a fast but undersized linebacker corps.
ABOUT TENNESSEE (2018: 5-7)
Jarrett Guarantano threw for 1,907 yards with 12 touchdowns against only three interceptions last season and hopes to better utilize the speed at wide receiver and get better production of the running back tandem of Ty Chandler (630 yards) and Tim Jordan (522). Top freshmen Darnell Wright and Wanya Morris were brought in to bolster a shaky offensive line that is still unsure of the status of standout Trey Smith, termed a game-time decision while dealing with blood clots that sidelined him for the second half of 2018. Tennessee also could be without linebacker Daniel Bituli (knee), the leading tackler the past two seasons who is listed as doubtful.
1. Tennessee received word late Tuesday that DL Aubrey Solomon is eligible to play immediately after his transfer from Michigan.
2. Georgia State is 0-10 versus Power Five teams, including a 51-13 loss at Tennessee in 2012.
3. Volunteers starting CB Bryce Thompson was suspended indefinitely after his arrest on a charge of misdemeanor domestic assault.
PREDICTION: Tennessee 41, Georgia State 18