BY DREW EDWARDS
The Vols enter Saturday’s game against Memphis on a roll. They’ve won two of three, with the only loss being a near-upset of then-No. 1 Alabama.
Memphis, however, is reeling. The Tigers have lost two in a row and four of their last five, the lone exception being a 35-20 win over UTEP.
The challenge this week for Tennessee will be finding a way to avoid a letdown – and juggling some injury concerns on defense. But based on the way the Vols’ staff has gotten this team ready to play week after week, perhaps it shouldn’t be.
The Tigers are balanced offensively, with a nearly equal number of runs and passes so far this season.
Quarterback Will Hudgens, who has started the last three games, has thrown for 958 yards and completed nearly 61 percent of his passes. That’s still a drop off from Tyler Bass, a dual-threat who is out for the year with a shoulder injury.
Memphis has also done a solid job protecting the quarterback. It’s given up just eight sacks on the year, which ranks 12th nationally and tops in Conference USA.
And while its running game only ranks 80th in the country, tailback Curtis Steele averages 99 yards per game and is fourth in C-USA.
To put it kindly, Memphis has a hard time hanging onto the football.
So far this season, the Tigers have committed 19 turnovers in eight games, including four last week against East Carolina. They rank 102nd in the nation in turnover margin, and they’re minus-seven on turnovers for the year.
The Tigers haven’t been stellar on special teams this season, either.