The Tennessee Volunteers (2-2) return home to Neyland Stadium to face the South Alabama Jaguars (2-1) Saturday on MSG at 12 PM.
After back-to-back losses to No. 2 Oregon and No. 19 Florida, and with upcoming matchups against No. 9 Georgia, No. 12 South Carolina and No. 1 Alabama in the next three weeks, the Vols will no doubt view Saturday's contest in Knoxville as a game they have to have in order to stay in bowl contention.
But Tennessee won't be facing a pushover squad. After losing by one-point to Southern Utah opening week, 22-21, the Jaguars have won two straight games.
"I know our players are looking forward to being at home, playing a very good South Alabama football team, a team that's very well coached, dynamic on offense, physical and aggressive on defense,'' said Tennessee head coach, Butch Jones during his SEC weekly coaches teleconference.
One thing the two teams have in common is that they both wins against Western Kentucky. Tennessee easily handled the Hilltopers 52-20, while South Alabama edged Western Kentucky, 31-24.
"Anytime you have a common opponent it helps because you understand the other team that they're playing, so I think that has helped,'' Jones said.
South Alabama is coming off a bye week and have prepped this week for possibly the biggest game on their schedule.
"We challenged them last week to come back ready to go and we had seniors at the gate as they were walking in telling everybody they better have a great practice,'' Jaguar coach Joey Jones told AL.com earlier this week, "and I thought they came out and practiced really well.”
Meanwhile, down in San Antonio, Texas, perhaps the hottest team in Texas, the University of Houston Cougars, (3-0) will face the University of Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners (2-2) on MSG + at 4 PM.
Led by second-year coach Tony Levine, the Cougars have begun their season 180 degrees from where they started last year’s campaign. In his first three games last season, Levine went 0-3. This season Houston looks much improved, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Houston has averaged 296.3 yards per game in the air, while running for a whopping 252 yards per game.
Despite only being in its third year in existence, USTA features a familiar face on the sidelines in Larry Coker, the former University of Miami coach; and he is no stranger to big games, particularly at home after playing two in a row on the road.
“It’s really good to be back home,” Coker told the San Antonio Express-News said after Wednesday’s practice. ”I tell you, it’s exciting for us. We really want to perform well at home. The crowds have been good. I think it’s going to be a great atmosphere on Saturday. We’ve got to make it a great atmosphere. When you’re playing well, that kind of helps the atmosphere, that’s for sure.”
To remain undefeated, Levine know that his football team needs to be prepared, because of who is on the other sideline.
“I’m not sure how familiar everyone is outside of our program is with the USTA’s football program, but they have a great, great coaching staff,” said Levine in his Tuesday press conference. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for coach Coker, and not only the job he’s done there, but certainty the job he’s done over his coaching career.”