Saturday afternoon, Tennessee looks to get to .500 as UAB comes to Knoxville. On the surface, one would think the Vols should win handily, but with a youthful team that's getting younger nothing is a given for the Vols. So what's key for the Vols to take care of business and do what they are expected to do? Here's four big things to watch in our weekly Cheat Sheet.
1. Play with emotion - There's not a coach in college football who will tell you that it's easy to get their team to play with great energy and passion 12 weeks in the regular season. There are games where guys don't bring the emotion to the field that they need. For some teams that's not a big deal as they are often times superior in talent to the team they are not "up for". Tennessee is not one of those teams right now. They can't mail it in emotionally against anyone including UAB this week. Dooley's challenge is to have his team dialed in and ready to play at their peak level.
2. Avoid turnovers - The Vols have not played a game this season without a turnover. Last week they turned it over on third down three times. There's no greater equalizer than turnovers. The last two weeks as the Vols were vying for the upset, turnovers were extremely costly in losses to Oregon and Florida. This week, Tennessee can ill afford turnovers. They can't afford to give the Blazers anything easy.
3. Grow as an offense - Numbers wise, Matt Simms put up good numbers in the second half against Florida. Simms went 13 of 20 for 206 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception. Simms also seemed to see the field better. His accuracy was better and his pocket awareness was improved. This week, Simms will see a different offensive line line-up with James Stone as a starter and Zach Fulton expected to see significant playing time. The future of the Vol offense will in large part be on the field Saturday afternoon. The Vols need that future to arrive quickly. In order for that to happen this offense needs to grow. They need to be more productive. They need to execute more consistently and they need to build confidence. To do that, they need to get out of the gates and off to a good start.
4. Get off the field on defense - Of all the disappointments from last week, turnovers, failure to hit a receiver on a big play when open, the biggest disappointment was on defense and the fact that Florida was ultra-successful on third and long. Tennessee had the Gator offense where they wanted them on third down most of the afternoon yet, the Vols couldn't finish the drill and get off the field. A lack of pass rush. Soft coverage in the secondary. Both contributed to the inability to force Florida to punt or kick field goals instead of scoring touchdowns. While the offense has to grow, so does the defense and the biggest area of growth the defense must show at this point is the ability to play third and long better by getting to the quarterback.