Battle at Bristol Preview and Prediction

College football’s biggest game ever! When fans look up the most attended college football game of all time this will be at the top of the list and by a wide margin. My guess is that it will stay there for a while. I haven’t heard of any other race tracks hosting any college football games anytime soon. Or any other venues anywhere near as big for that matter.

This game is a novelty with the added bonus of a compelling match up. Tennessee wants to show that they are deserving of their preseason top 10 ranking. The Hokies want to show that they’re back under new coach Justin Fuente. For one team this game will be a springboard for the rest of their season.

I would throw out the results from week 1 for both teams. It was clear that both teams made an effort not to show much in their first game. I don’t think either team’s first game was any sign of what we’re going to see in this game. On Saturday you’ll see two teams who will come focused and prepared to play. Neither coach will hold anything back. You’ll see both teams’ full arsenal on display.

This matchup is not as lopsided as most would have you believe. Tennessee has a slight talent advantage and the more experienced quarterback. On a big stage like this that could make a huge difference. But week 1 did show us that first year starters can win big games (Florida State, Texas and Alabama). The experience factor does matter though. Those lights are going to be awfully bright on Saturday.

Tennessee has a talented and experienced defense. They have a disruptive defensive line that has racked up a lot of sacks. Their linebackers are tackling machines and do not allow many yards on the ground. If the Hokies are going to have success on Saturday, it will likely come through the air. They will need to target the defensive secondary and throw away from Cameron Sutton.

Virginia Tech’s defense matches up well against the Tennessee offense. The one area of concern is that Joshua Dobbs is a mobile quarterback. Bud Foster will load up to stop the run and make Dobbs beat the Hokies through the air. The stats suggest that Dobbs struggles at times as a passer, particularly with the deep ball. If the Hokies use this strategy, expect it to be successful to limiting the Vols offense. This also requires keeping talented running backs Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara in check.

One area of concern in this game is special teams. Tennessee has a talent and depth advantage. That can cause some concerns on kick and punt returns. Joey Slye will need to boot every kick through the end zone to keep the Vols from returning kicks. The punting game will also be important for field position. Mitchell Ludwig will need to perform better than he did against Liberty. The Hokies also need to make sure that Evan Berry doesn’t break a big return in the punt game.

This will be a close game. Both teams are well matched. Tennessee has a slight talent advantage but not enough to say this will be easy sledding for them. Bud Foster will come up with an excellent scheme to keep Tennessee’s offense in check. The Hokies will struggle when they have the ball. Tennessee has an excellent defense and talent all over the field. Watch out early on, there is the potential for big shifts in the first five minutes of the game. Both teams will have some early jitters because of the big game environment and crowd noise. Also, look out for big special teams plays to impact the outcome. Plays like big kick/punt returns and missed fields goals. I like the Hokies chances but I think Tennessee’s talent and experience win out.

Prediction: Tennessee 30, Virginia Tech 17

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