Tennessee Vols Host Akron: Three Things to Look For

Vols host Akron

The Tennessee Vols return to Knoxville after an emotional overtime road win against defending ACC Champion Pitt. It’ll be a little different with the Akron Zips coming into Neyland Stadium. Former Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead brings in a Zips squad that was 2-10 in 2021 and hasn’t performed well so far this season.

Akron needed overtime to best FCS St. Francis on opening weekend and got hammered by Michigan State 52-0 last Saturday. In total, the Zips have only gained 609 total yards through two games, 489 passing yards, and 120 rushing yards.

Vols Host Akron: Three Things to Look For

Needless to say, the biggest obstacle for Josh Heupel this week is focus. Tennessee enters the game 47-point favorites over their Mid-American Conference visitors. On top of Akron’s lackluster first two efforts, fans in Knoxville are already looking ahead to Florida coming to town next weekend.

Adding to Akron’s woes was the significant injury to starting quarterback D.J. Irons last week. Akron will presumably start backup Jeff Undercuffler against the Vols. Undercuffler went 11/22 in his time last weekend. After watching the film of Tennessee’s aggressive defense Pitt, expect Undercuffler to rely exclusively on short passes. The Spartans had five sacks and nine tackles-for-loss (TFLs) last week.

And Tennessee’s offense hasn’t hit its stride yet, so expect Alex Golesh to try to get a good rhythm going against an undersized Akron team that plays a base 3-3 defense and relies heavily on their secondary.

Focus

Tennessee’s offense got solid marks for their opening game against Ball State but sputtered at times against Pittsburgh. The receivers, especially early, had uncharacteristic drops. The playbook will be pared down, but it will be critical for Tennessee to execute their simplified game plan to build confidence heading into next week.

On the defensive side, expect Moorhead to dial up a few trick plays to try and build some momentum early. After the defense’s aggressive game against Pitt, defensive coordinator Tim Banks can bet on a steady diet of screens and draws. The Zips will be desperate to make Banks think about sending pressure. Read discipline and linebackers in pass coverage are the two things to key in on while watching the defense play.

What to Look For: 0. Zero turnovers for the offense. Zero dropped passes for the receivers. Plus zero plays over 10 yards for the defense. And zero points.

Special Teams

Special Teams were poor against Pitt and almost cost Tennessee the game. It’s pretty simple. The basics: better snaps, better blocking, better coverage, and catching punts. There’s nothing worse than the defense stopping a team on their side of the field only to come back on the next play in goalline defense.

What to Look For: A clean special teams game. No slow snaps, no muffed punts, and convert field goal attempts inside 45 yards.

Push Them Around

Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright need to get the rushing attack going to give Florida something to think about. The two top Tennessee rushers only have 215 total yards rushing in the first two games. When Heupel’s offense is at its best, like Missouri last season, the rushing game is eating up chunks of yardage and clicking off multiple first downs, especially in the middle third of the field.

Heupel’s offensive schemes and Golesh’s play calls are far more balanced than most people realize. But to make the scheme effective, the running game has to be better. Especially when better defenses come into town. Like…you guessed it, next weekend. Akron’s defensive scheme is susceptible to giving up big rushing days. The Vols need to take advantage of that.

What to Look For: Let’s just go with 250 yards rushing.

Vols Visit Pittsburgh: The Last Word

This Vols team is mature with good coaching and good leadership in the locker room. And this Zips team is banged up and overmatched. Expect Tennessee to come out under the lights focused on the task at hand. Expect a big first half and a couple of Joe Milton touchdowns in the second half.

Vols finally hit their stride, and none too soon.

Tennessee: 59
Akron: 6

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