- Josh and Swain Newsletter
- 🏈 Tennessee's most important matchups vs Texas A&M
🏈 Tennessee's most important matchups vs Texas A&M
Can the Vols keep their home streak going?
Hello. This is the Josh and Swain Newsletter, a quick roundup of the week’s top stories and topics involving Tennessee and the sports world.
Here’s what we have for you today:
Matchups to watch for Tennessee this weekend
How much will the Neyland Stadium crowd matter?
Honoring a Tennessee Football Legend
The Atlanta Braves will always have June
WHERE THE GAME WILL BE WON AND LOST
Tennessee prepares for its biggest test of the season
Tennessee is about to play its most important game of the season.
That might sound familiar… because the Vols are coming off a win in their previous “most important game of the season.”
Tennessee needed to beat South Carolina two weeks ago to get the season back on track.
This week, Tennessee needs to beat Texas A&M to keep the momentum going.
📍 Neyland Stadium
⏰ 3:30 p.m. ET
📻 99.1 The Sports Animal/WIVK
This game is a big deal for both teams.
Texas A&M is coming off a one-score loss in a hard-fought game against Alabama.
The Aggies have already lost two games (the other to Miami)… and really need to avoid loss No. 3.
The matchup looks close on paper.
Tennessee is a 3-point favorite as of this writing.
Computer simulations project the outcome close to that number.
Which matchups in the game are most intriguing?
Here are three will play a big role in which team wins:
1️⃣ Tennessee’s run game vs Texas A&M’s run defense
Tennessee has the best rushing offense in the SEC.
Texas A&M has the league’s best rushing defense.
The ole something-has-to-give stat.
As much as the Vols’ passing attack gets talked about, it’s the Vols’ running game that drives the offense.
“Every time we take the field we say it starts with us,” running back Dylan Sampson said this week.
How successful will Tennessee be running the football against the Aggies?
Texas A&M held Miami to 77 rushing yards. Alabama only put up 23 yards on the ground against the Aggies.
Texas A&M’s defense has had problems this season… but not against the run.
2️⃣ Tennessee has to find success in the air
Miami and Alabama beat Texas A&M because of their passing attacks.
Miami quarterback Tyler Van Dyke and Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe have one 300-yard passing game apiece this season.
Both came against Texas A&M.
Guess how many 300-yard passing games Tennessee QB Joe Milton III has this season?
You guessed it: he’s still looking for his first one.
This week would be a good time as the Vols will need to hit some passes down the field.
“I have a sense this game is going to come down to plays being made on the outside,” Jayson Swain said on this week’s show.
Tennessee will look to wide receiver Squirrel White to continue making plays.
He caught all nine targets for 104 yards against South Carolina.
Who else will step up in the absence of Bru McCoy?
Senior Ramel Keyton is an option.
Second-year receivers Chas Nimrod and Kaleb Webb should see opportunities, too.
Tennessee needs Dont’e Thornton to make plays. But his health is a question after he injured his hamstring before the South Carolina game.
No matter who it is, Tennessee needs more big plays from the passing game.
3️⃣ The Vols need to pressure Texas A&M QB Max Johnson
Texas A&M’s offensive line had a tough time holding off Alabama’s defensive front last week.
Texas A&M OL Mark Nabou Jr. was the only Aggie offensive lineman to grade above a 55, at 72.6, per PFF.
Trey Zuhn III - 55.4
Layden Robinson - 40.6
Bryce Foster - 31.2
Dametrious Crownover - 39.7
Chase Bisontis - 17.4
Every starting OL allowed a sack. Most pressures came from… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
— 𝕋𝕣𝕒𝕧𝕚𝕤 𝕃. 𝔹𝕣𝕠𝕨𝕟 (@Travis_L_Brown)
Oct 8, 2023
That could mean good news for Tennessee.
The Vols have been one of the best teams at getting after the quarterback this season.
Senior Tyler Baron has helped lead the way and sophomore James Pearce Jr. has broken out, registering five sacks through five games.
The Aggies have a lot of talent at receiver, but quarterback Max Johnson hasn’t shown the quickest release.
Can Tennessee pressure Johnson consistently on Saturday?
It could mean the difference in Tennessee winning or not.
TENNESSEE’S HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE
Tennessee will checker the stadium on Saturday
Tennessee has one more weapon on its side this week: the home crowd.
Tennessee has a 12-game winning streak at Neyland Stadium.
Texas A&M comes to Knoxville with a seven-game losing streak in true road games.
Jimbo Fisher’s teams have had almost no success on the road when they’re not expected to win.
Jimbo Fisher is 0-10 as an @SEC road underdog. 2-15 career as a head coach.
— Tyler Wyatt (@TylerWyattBets)
Oct 10, 2023
Combine the home-field advantage with Josh Heupel’s extra time to prepare, and there are several reasons to be optimistic about Tennessee’s chance this weekend.
Gary Danielson’s comments won’t hurt, either.
The CBS announcer told the Knoxville News Sentinel there’s little difference between Neyland Stadium and other SEC stadiums when they get loud.
Danielson might not have meant that as an insult, but Tennessee fans will take it that way.
We’ll see how the home crowd responds on Saturday.
My guess: Neyland Stadium will help make a difference.
Fisher has to be thrilled.
Tennessee has to take advantage of that crowd, of course.
The stadium was loud and wild in 2015 when Oklahoma came to town. But Baker Mayfield and Co. escaped with a win.
The crowd will do all it can to help the team. Then it’s up to the team.
As one listener told us during Thursday’s show:
“Loud is loud. But Neyland is Neyland.”
🏈 VFL and former wide receiver Joey Kent will be honored as part of the 2023 SEC Football Legends Class.
🏈 Want some bold predictions for the rest of Tennessee’s season? I gave five bold predictions here.
🏈 Kentucky coach Mark Stoops grabbed headlines this week when he encouraged fans to donate more money to help UK land players like Georgia.
🏈 Deion Sanders on late football games: “Stupidest thing ever invented in life.”
🏈 Here’s the schedule for the upcoming college football weekend. Oregon and Washington will play a big one in Seattle.
🏀 You’ll be surprised to learn that Bill Self and Kansas avoided major penalties in their case with the NCAA.
⚾ There has been criticism of Major League Baseball’s new postseason format. Don’t expect it to change any time soon.
HONORING ERIC BERRY
Eric Berry brought it on every play, every game
Tennessee will honor VFL Eric Berry at halftime during the Texas A&M game.
Berry will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in December.
Is there such a thing as a perfect player?
But Berry was close.
He was everything a coach could ask for with the way he played and prepared himself for each game.
Berry arrived with all kinds of hype and absurd expectations as a freshman at Tennessee in 2007.
Somehow, he outperformed what everyone predicted.
Tennessee fans will remember his big hit on Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno, the pick-six against Tim Tebow, and his seven interceptions during the 2008 season.
He was also the coolest player in college football. (Never forget Swiperboy’s song!)
But the first thing that will always come to mind for me is Berry’s mindset.
Berry gave a speech at the 2016 ESPY Awards when he was named Comeback Athlete of the Year following his battle against cancer.
Berry was a phenomenal player, both in college and the NFL.
But it was the way Berry carried himself, stood up for others, and set an example of what it takes to fight through adversity.
Honor and legacy. That’s what Berry leaves behind.
Watch his ESPY speech below.
ONE LAST BYTE OUT THE DOOR
The Phillies can look past the Braves now
The Atlanta Braves had a historic run during the 2023 regular season.
The Braves tied the MLB record for most home runs in a season.
Ronald Acuna Jr. became the first player to hit 40 home runs and steal 70 bases in a season.
Matt Olson set a franchise record with 54 home runs as the team won 104 games.
And none of that mattered once the postseason began.
The Philadelphia Phillies eliminated the Braves in four games on Thursday night.
Atlanta’s powerful offense produced a total of eight runs in the series.
Nick Castellanos of the Phillies hit more home runs (4) than the entire Braves team (3) during the series.
Atlanta will always be proud of its regular season accomplishments for 2023.
But the Braves will also look back at this season with a what-could-have-been memory.
The postseason has not been kind to baseball’s top teams this year.
If Atlanta loses tonight, the 4 winningest teams in baseball: Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Atlanta and Los Angeles, who won 404 between them, will have gone 1-11 combined and not one will make it as far as the LCS
Playoff baseball is always wild, but that’s really amazing.
— Scott Van Pelt (@notthefakeSVP)
Oct 12, 2023
This will cause more questions about baseball’s postseason format.
But there’s always this idea: play better when it matters.
The Phillies did that — and they’re moving on because of it.
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