PREVIEW: Tigers vs. Tennessee



Saturday, 7 p.m., Liberty Bowl

• One team will leave the Liberty Bowl Saturday night with a losing streak behind them. The Tigers have lost five straight since beating Middle Tennessee on September 18th, while the Volunteers are on a four-game skid since edging UAB on September 25th.

• The Tigers have lost six straight to UT since the epic upset over the 6th-ranked Vols (and quarterback Peyton Manning) on November 9, 1996. The Tigers fell by a single point (17-16) in 1999, by two in 2000, and four in 2005. Tennessee won last year in Knoxville, 56-28. Overall, Tennessee owns a 21-1 edge in the series, with nine of the wins coming at the Liberty Bowl.


• Tennessee has the rare distinction of playing under its third head coach in three years. Phil Fulmer stepped down after the 2008 season, his 16th at the helm. Lane Kiffin coached the 2009 Vols to a 7-6 record before leaving for USC. Now Derek Dooley is in charge, with a record of 2-6 in his first season in Knoxville.

• Junior Matt Simms has taken the most snaps at quarterback for Tennessee, having thrown for 1,406 yards with eight touchdowns and five interceptions. The son of former New York Giant Phil Simms, Matt transferred to UT from El Camino Community College (where he played in 2009 after spending his freshman season at Louisville). Freshman Tyler Bray has gained playing time as the season has progressed. Bray threw for 159 yards and a pair of touchdowns last week at South Carolina. On Monday, Dooley named Bray the starter against Memphis, meaning both starting quarterbacks Saturday are true freshmen.

• Tennessee is led on the ground by junior Tauren Poole (628 yards, six touchdowns). The Vols’ top receiver has been senior Denarius Moore (24 receptions, 485 yards, five touchdowns). With 11 more catches, Moore will have 100 for his career.

• Saturday’s game will be the sixth time Memphis has faced a Tennessee team with a losing record (1976, ’77, ’86, ’88, and 2005).

• For the first time in the program’s history, Memphis has given up more than 40 points in six games. The Tigers have given up more than 500 yards in each of their last three games.

• This will be a battle between teams near the bottom of the NCAA rankings in most team categories. In total offense, Tennessee ranks 89th (331.3 yards per game) while Memphis is 114th (280.6). In total defense, Tennessee is 87th (407.1) while the Tigers are 119th (473).

• With 15 tackles last week against Houston, Tiger linebacker Jamon Hughes now has 101 for the season. Since the statistic was first tracked in 1964, the Tiger record for tackles in a season is 161 by Dave Pawlik in 1971. If Hughes remains healthy and continues to average 12 tackles per game, his total would trail only that of Pawlik and Keith Butler’s 152 in 1977.

• Greg Ray leads the Tigers in rushing yards with 497, having achieved a career high last week with 176 against the Cougars. Marcus Rucker tops the receiving column, with 23 catches for 412 yards.

• The Tigers and Vols have met twice before on November 6th. In 1976, Tennessee won, 21-14, at the Liberty Bowl. In 1982, the Vols won, 29-3, in Knoxville.

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