As part of our bowl game preview series, we will look at the upcoming matchup in the Music City Bowl between Nebraska and Tennessee.
In the 19th Music City Bowl, fans are treated to a match-up between the Nebraska Cornhuskers from the Big 10 and the Tennessee Volunteers from the SEC.
The Cornhuskers come into the game finishing 9-3 and third in the Big 10 West. After a promising 7-0 start that saw the Huskers rise as high as 7th in the AP Poll, they dropped three of their next five games—granted, two of those losses came to Ohio State and Wisconsin. After high hopes of making it to the Big 10 title game, Nebraska will look to end the season on a high note.
Tennessee came into this season with expectations of finally winning the SEC East. Starting off 5-0 with big wins against Florida and Georgia seemed to indicate that the Vols had turned a corner and would finally meet expectations. Tough losses to Texas A&M, Alabama, and South Carolina derailed those dreams. Tennessee finished 8-4 overall but 4-4 in the SEC, leaving them second in the SEC East.
The Music City Bowl will be played in Nashville, Tennessee on December 30th at 3:30 pm seen on ESPN.
Storylines Heading Into The Game
All Hopes On Ryker Fyfe- Nebraska will be without senior leader and the Cornhusker’s all-time leading passer in quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., as his year of battling injuries has finally caught up with him. Filling in for Armstrong Jr. will be fifth year senior and former walk-on Ryker Fyfe. Fyfe will start only his third game of his career. Taking over for Armstrong on senior night, he led the Huskers to a 28-7 victory over Maryland. Over his career, Fyfe has thrown over 800 yards, eight touchdowns, and six interceptions.
Butch Jones Playing For His Job?- The Volunteers have some of the most passionate fans in college football. That’s great for the school and team but can lead to controversy and overreaction. After a demoralizing 45-34 loss to rival Vanderbilt, many fans were demanding for coach Butch Jones to be fired. For years, Tennessee has started off the year as SEC East favorites but have failed to reach that goal finishing second the past two seasons. Jones is 29-21 during his tenure at Tennessee but should be allowed to stick around for at least another season.
Headed to Nashville! 🍊🏈 pic.twitter.com/P959AGj6cF— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) December 26, 2016
Sending NFL Talent Off With A Bang- Both Tennessee and Nebraska will have defensive players looking to improve their draft stock while helping their teams end the season well. Both teams failed to meet expectations, but that doesn’t mean they’re void of talent. Tennessee has two of the top players at their position in defensive end Derek Barnett (12 sacks this year, 32 in career) and cornerback Cameron Sutton (7 career interceptions), while Nebraska’s top prospect is also on the defensive end in safety Nathan Gerry (13 career interceptions). Both Gerry and Sutton will look to improve their stock, while Barnett is already considered one of the best prospects in the draft.
36.3- Tennessee’s offense hasn’t been their problem this season. In fact, the Volunteers rank 24th in scoring offense at 36.3 lead by senior quarterback Joshua Dobbs. While they don’t gain many yards—only 437 per game—they can definitely score with the best of the them. Nebraska won’t be an easy team to score on, however, as they only allow 22.8 points (31st nationally).
26.8- As opposed to the Vols, Nebraska’s offense leaves a lot to be desired. Ranked 78th in the country in scoring at 26.8 points per game, things won’t get easier with the absence of Armstrong Jr. Fyfe’s only start this season came against Maryland who gives up 29 points per game and Tennessee’s defense is actually slightly worse giving up 29.3 point per game. With so many injuries on the Tennessee defense, Nebraska’s offense might have caught a break.
139- There’s not many teams where the quarterback is the leading passer as well as the leading rusher. Tennessee and Dobbs are one of those teams. While throwing 319 times for 2,655 yards is a good year, leading your team in rushing attempts with 139 is something all its own. On those 139 carries, Dobbs has 713 yards and nine touchdowns. The next closest in carries is Jalen Hurd (122) and rushing yards is Alvin Kamara (513). Dobbs is the driving force for the Tennessee offense.
Derek Barnett, Defensive End, Tennessee
This game has the potential to be a tale of Tennessee’s offense scoring often, but also conceding often. If Tennessee has a fighting chance of stopping Nebraska Barnett will have to make plays. Seen as one of the top defensive end NFL prospects Barnett makes an impact against both rushing and passing heavy teams. Barnett has 51 career tackles for loss, which places him 20th in the NCAA since 2005 and second in the SEC since 2005. Maybe even more impressive is his 31 career sacks putting him 20th in the NCAA and first in the SEC since 2005.
Terrell Newby, Running Back, Nebraska
An inexperienced quarterback and a backpedaling defense could be big for running back Terrell Newby. Nebraska only averages 178.2 yards on the ground per game but the Volunteers have given up three 400 yard rushing games this season. Things could be looking up for Newby.
Everything in my gut is telling me to pick Nebraska in this game. Tennessee’s defense is so depleted that while their offense can score in bunches, their defense might do the same. The Volunteers are seven point favorites going into the final days heading into the game and I can see why. Fyfe is unproven for Nebraska’s offense isn’t very impressive in itself. Dobbs’ duel-treat could be too much to handle and I believe that to be the biggest difference in this game.
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