No. 17 Tennessee is favored to win by five touchdowns, according to BetMGM, on Saturday against visiting UConn, which always seems to fall one touchdown short.
The Volunteers (6-2) take a break from Southeastern Conference play after collecting their first road victory of the season last Saturday with a 33-27 win at Kentucky.
The independent Huskies (1-7) travel to Knoxville after suffering their fourth loss by seven or fewer points this season in a 21-14 setback at Boston College last Saturday.
“I want to win, No. 1. That’s always the message,” second-year UConn coach Jim Mora told the Hartford Courant.
“Win, but do what’s necessary to win. It’s maintaining the mindset that they’ve got right now, which is toughness, resilience, fight, hunger. Staying together, not pointing the finger at anybody but yourself. Figuring it out, how can I be better every moment, every day? That’s what I want to see.”
UConn scored the game’s first and last touchdowns against Boston College and didn’t commit any turnovers, but the defense simply couldn’t stop the run. The Eagles rushed for 246 yards and held possession for nearly 41 minutes.
Camryn Edwards ran for 89 yards and a touchdown and Ta’Quan Roberson completed 11 of 24 passes for 130 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions to lead the Huskies, who experienced similar close losses to South Florida (24-21), Utah State (34-33) and Florida International (24-17).
UConn’s only win came on the road with a 38-31 victory at Rice on Oct. 7, fueled by four Owls turnovers and two touchdown passes by Roberson.
After squandering a 20-7 halftime lead in a 34-20 loss at Alabama on Oct. 21, Tennessee took a 23-17 advantage into the intermission at Kentucky and held on for the six-point win.
Joe Milton III passed for 228 yards and a touchdown, Jaylen Wright and Dylan Sampson each ran for TDs and Charles Campbell kicked four field goals against the Wildcats.
“Joe was uber efficient, great with his eyes, good fundamentally and extremely accurate with the football,” Vols coach Josh Heupel said Monday. “It was a really good performance by him.”
Milton is completing 64.8 percent of his passes this season with 13 touchdowns and just four interceptions in eight games.
Heupel said he was concerned that the Tennessee defense recorded only one sack against Kentucky.
“We gotta do a great job of applying pressure to the quarterback, having not gotten home here much over the last couple of weeks,” Heupel said. “So that’ll be important.”
This is the first meeting between Tennessee and UConn. The Volunteers will look to avoid a trap with upcoming games at Missouri on Nov. 11 and at home against No. 2 Georgia on Nov. 18.
Tennessee linebacker Keenan Pili will miss his eighth straight game since sustaining an upper-body injury against Virginia in the season opener. Heupel said he is still hopeful the BYU transfer will get back on the field this season.
–Field Level Media