KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Rocky Top? More like rocky bottom for coach Jeremy Pruitt and Tennessee, who will be trying to avoid the program's third 0-3 start in 31 years when FCS opponent Chattanooga pays a visit to Knoxville on Saturday afternoon. The Volunteers have stumbled out of the gate with a stunning loss to heavy underdog Georgia State before falling in double overtime to visiting BYU a week ago.
TV: Noon ET, SEC Network. LINE: Tennessee -28.
Facing a brutal Southeastern Conference schedule that will feature three matchups against opponents currently ranked among the top 10 makes Saturday's contest a must win for Tennessee. The Volunteers appeared on the verge of breaking into the win column last week before allowing a 60-yard pass to set up a tying field goal at the end of regulation. "When you look at where our team was at in the first week and how much we improved from Week 1 to Week 2, that's what we have to do," Pruitt said. "I want to see how much we improve from this past week to this next week. To me, that's a goal for this week, if we can do it again. I said that if we do that, the wins and losses will take care of themselves. I truly believe that." Tennessee is 38-2-2 all-time against Chattanooga, which is coming off a 41-20 loss at Jacksonville State after knocking off Eastern Illinois 24-10 in its season opener.
ABOUT CHATTANOOGA (0-1)
The Mocs were overwhelmed in last week's loss, giving up 509 total yards and allowing nationally ranked Jacksonville State to hold the ball for over 12 minutes in the final quarter. Chattanooga returns all five starters on the offensive line along with quarterback Nick Tiano, who will be looking for wide receiver Bryce Nunnelly - an FCS preseason All-American who has 14 catches for 187 yards and a touchdown after racking up 79 receptions for 1,237 yards and seven scores last season. True freshman Ailym Ford leads the Mocs in rushing after piling up 127 yards and a TD last week.
ABOUT TENNESSEE (0-2)
The Volunteers have already played 10 true freshmen and among the biggest contributors have been linebacker Henry To'o To'o and running back Eric Gray. To'o To'o led the team in tackles with seven in the season opener and followed that up with eight more against BYU, while Gray rushed for 77 yards on 17 carries a week ago after posting six receptions against Georgia State. Jarrett Guarantano threw for only 176 yards and a pair of scores versus BYU, but junior running back Ty Chandler bounced back from a sub-par opener by rushing for 154 yards on a career-high 26 carries.
1. Volunteers WR Jauan Jennings, who had two TD receptions last week, needs two catches to reach 100 for his career.
2. Nunnelly has seven 100-yard games in 2018, including five catches for 141 yards at South Carolina.
3. Tennessee on Wednesday reinstated CB Bryce Thompson, who was suspended on Aug. 24 following his arrest on a misdemeanor domestic assault charge.
PREDICTION: Tennessee 37, Chattanooga 13