Tennessee (3-6) vs. Texas A&M (7-1)
Saturday, December 19th, 2020 | 11:00am CT
Knoxville, TN | Neyland Stadium | TV: ESPN
Knoxville, TN – Tennessee Vols Football wraps up its regular-season slate with a matchup against #5 Texas A&M noon Saturday, December 19th, 2020 at Neyland Stadium.
The Vols are coming off a 42-17 victory over in-state rival Vanderbilt and will be looking to notch an upset to end the regular season with two straight wins.
Saturday will also be Senior Day as UT will recognize its seniors prior to kickoff. Gates open to the public two hours prior to kickoff at 10 a.m.
Please note that parking passes issued for this season did not include opponents on them, therefore, those with parking passes should use the pass labeled “Game 5” for Saturday’s contest.
Saturday’s game will be televised nationally on ESPN with Bob Wischusen (PxP), Dusty Dvoracek (analyst) and Quint Kessenich (sideline) on the call. Kickoff is slated for noon ET.
Fans can also listen to Tennessee’s official radio broadcast on the Vol Network (WIVK-FM 107.7/WNML-FM 99.1) and satellite radio (Sirius Ch. 134, XM Ch. 191, Internet Ch. 962). A live audio stream of the broadcast will also be available on UTSports.com? and the Official Gameday App.
Bob Kesling (PxP), Tim Priest (analyst) and Brent Hubbs (analyst) will call the action, with Kasey Funderburg handling sideline duties. The “Kickoff Call-In Show” begins at 2:00pm.
Gameday Health & Safety Measures
Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, numerous procedures and protocols have been put in place for Tennessee football home games at Neyland Stadium.
Relying on the expertise of public health authorities, the state of Tennessee, appropriate university and government agencies including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we are implementing a number of new initiatives on Tennessee football gamedays this fall. The well-being of our student-athletes, fans and staff are our top priorities and guide our decisions.
Stadium capacity will be limited to no more than 25% and capacity will also be limited in all merchandise shops. Merchandise stores and stands will only be accepting credit cards for payment. Cash will not be accepted.
Face coverings (over the nose and mouth) are required for all guests as they enter, exit and move around Neyland Stadium, as well as any time guests are unable to maintain the recommended physical distance from others who are not in their same household.
Additional cleaning and sanitization measures have been implemented. This includes high touch-point areas being cleaned more frequently and providing additional hand-sanitizing locations.
For a complete overview of this season’s health and safety measures, please visit the Tennessee Football Gameday Information page on UTSports.com.
Back in the Win Column
Tennessee snapped a six-game losing streak with a 42-17 win at Vanderbilt last Saturday. The Vols erupted for a season-high 540 yards of total offense and scored 28 unanswered in the second and third quarters to erase a 10-7 deficit. Bryce Thompson ignited the scoring with a highlight-reel one-handed interception that he returned 18 yards for a touchdown with 8:37 remaining in the second quarter.
True freshman quarterback Harrison Bailey made his second straight start and finished 14-of-18 for 207 yards and two scores. He completed his first 13 pass attempts and found Velus Jones Jr. for a 74-yard score in the fourth quarter. Jones Jr. notched UT’s first 100-yard receiving game this season, finishing with seven catches for 125 yards and two scores. Henry To’o To’o led the Vols with 10 tackles and two PBUs.
Offense Peaking Entering Regular-Season Finale
In the last three games, Tennessee has seen its passing game take the next step. The Vols have passed for 240-plus yards in three straight games, marking the first time they have done that since the 2012 season – 381 at South Carolina, 530 vs. Troy, 432 vs. Missouri.
It’s also the first time that UT has passed for 240-plus yards in three straight SEC games since 2009 – 259 vs. Auburn, 310 vs. Georgia, 265 at Alabama. Tennessee threw for 242 yards at Auburn on November 21st, 240 yards vs. No. 6 Florida on December 5th and 328 yards in a win at Vanderbilt on December 12th.
True freshman Harrison Bailey and sophomore J.T. Shrout each threw a pair of touchdowns in the win at Vanderbilt on December 12th. It was the first time the Vols threw four or more touchdowns in a game since tallying four against No. 20 Florida on September 24th, 2016.
In the last two games combined, Tennessee has thrown for six touchdowns and only one interception. The six TD passes is tied for the SEC lead with Alabama in the month of December. In the two December games, UT is 48-of-69 for 568 yards and a completion percentage of 69.6, which ranks third in the SEC behind Texas A&M (78.3) and Alabama (75.8).
Against #6 Florida on December 5th, Tennessee orchestrated three scoring drives of over 94 yards. It was the first time since at least 2003 that the Vols had three scoring drives of 90+ yards in a game. In a loss at No. 21 Auburn on November 21st, the Vols tallied 28 first downs, representing the most in the Jeremy Pruitt era.
It was also the most first downs in a game by UT since recording 29 against Kentucky on November 12th, 2016. Tennessee has put up over 400 yards of total offense in two of its last three games, including a Pruitt-era-high 540 at Vanderbilt and 464 at No. 21 Auburn on November 21st.
Thompson Earns SEC Defensive Player of the Week Honors
Junior cornerback Bryce Thompson has been a playmaker in the secondary for Tennessee in his three seasons. Thompson has forced 10 turnovers in his career, including two forced fumbles and eight interceptions. He is tied for the lead among active SEC players in career interceptions and is 13th in the FBS in that category and tied for fifth in the Power 5.
Last Saturday at Vanderbilt, Thompson swung the momentum of the game for the Vols, making a spectacular one-handed interception and returning it 18 yards for a touchdown. The pick six came in the second quarter with the Vols trailing 10-7 and ignited 28 unanswered points for Tennessee. It was the first pick six of Thompson’s career. He added two tackles and was the highest graded defensive player of the game with a 91.2 coverage grade according to Pro Football Focus.
It was his second interception of the season. For his efforts, Thompson was tabbed the SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week on December 14th. The recognition marks the third such honor for Thompson, who was the outright SEC Defensive Player of the Week on Nov. 4, 2019, and SEC Freshman of the Week on September 10th, 2018.
To’o To’o Top Defender
Sophomore linebacker Henry To’o To’o leads the Vols in tackles (63) and tackles for loss (10.0) this season. He leads the SEC in TFLs per game (1.1) and is one of two SEC players this season with 10 or more TFLs. To’o To’o has multiple tackles for loss in four games this season, including a career-best 2.5 TFLs against No. 6 Florida. He added a fake punt conversion to his resume against Vanderbilt last week with a 31-yard reception in the second quarter.
Strength of Schedule
No. 5 Texas A&M is the fourth top-five ranked opponent Tennessee has faced this season (includes all polls, at time of meeting). It’s the first time in school history that the Vols will have faced four top-five ranked teams in a single season. All four of those teams are still ranked in the top 11 and are a combined 32-5 this season.
Fifty percent of UT’s schedule this season came against ranked opponents. According to the USA Today Sagarin Ratings, Tennessee’s strength of schedule ranks fifth in the FBS behind Arkansas (1), Mississippi State (2), Michigan State (3) and Auburn (4).
Regular season contests in the month of December are a rare occurrence for Tennessee football. Saturday’s contest will be the latest calendar-wise regular season game in school history and will be Tennessee’s 36th regular season game played during the month of December.
The December 5th Florida contest was the first December game for the Vols since December 1st, 2001, a game that was rescheduled following the events of 9/11. The Vols defeated No. 2 Florida, 34-32, in Gainesville that day.
This will be the 15th December game played in Knoxville and the 14th in Neyland Stadium. The Vols are 13-1 in those contests. Including postseason games, Tennessee owns a 44-15-1 (.742) record during the month of December.
Vols lead series, 2-1
This will be just the fourth meeting all-time between the Vols and Aggies and the first ever game between the two programs at Neyland Stadium. Tennessee has faced Texas A&M the fewest times among any of its SEC opponents.
UT won the first two meetings in the series at neutral sites with a 3-0 win in the 1957 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville and a 38-7 victory in the 2004 Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Texas A&M won the most recent and only conference meeting between the two schools, posting a thrilling 45-38 double overtime win in College Station back in 2016.
About Texas A&M
The Aggies enter Saturday’s game with a 7-1 record and sit just outside the top four in the College Football Playoff rankings, coming in at No. 5. Texas A&M is coached by Jimbo Fisher, who is 24-10 in his third season as the Aggies head coach. The Aggies are solid on both sides of the ball, ranking fourth in the SEC in total offense (429.8 ypg) and second in total defense (329.5 ypg). Their offensive line has been one of the best in the country, ranking fifth in the FBS and leading the conference with only 0.5 sacks allowed per game.
Quarterback Kellen Mond leads the Aggies offense. The senior signal caller has passed for1,769 yards and 18 touchdowns while throwing just two interceptions this season. Mond ranks fourth in the SEC and 19th nationally in passing touchdowns (18) and fifth in the league in passing efficiency (146.4). He has also rushed for 199 yards and two touchdowns.
Sophomore Jalen Wydermyer, one of the best young tight ends in the country, leads the Aggies’s deep and talented receiving corps with 40 receptions for 431 yards and six touchdowns. Fellow sophomore Ainias Smith ranks second on the team with 33 catches for 410 yards and five touchdowns. Sophomore running back Isaiah Spiller is one of the top rushers in the SEC with 897 yards and six touchdowns on 151 carries. His 112.1 yards per game ranks second in the conference.
Defensively, senior linebacker Buddy Johnson does a little bit of everything for Texas A&M. He leads the team with 74 tackles, ranks third on the squad with six tackles for loss and also has three sacks, three pass breakups and one interception. Junior defensive lineman Bobby Brown III leads the Aggies with 4.5 sacks and ranks second on the team with 6.5 TFLs. Junior defensive back Leon O’Neal leads the secondary with 42 tackles and two interceptions.