Tennessee football fans may need to snag as many napping opportunities as possible this week, because Saturday night could be a late one inside Neyland Stadium.
The Volunteers have averaged 53.5 points per game the past two weekends in blowout victories over Missouri and South Carolina, while No. 13 Ole Miss is coming off Saturday's 52-51 outlasting of Arkansas. A lot of touchdowns will lead to a lot of extra points and kickoffs and commercial breaks in between, so there is no telling when this 7:30 start on the SEC Network will end.
"We know they have a high-potent offense, and so do we," Tennessee senior interior offensive lineman Jerome Carvin said Monday in a news conference. "Hopefully we're going to score more points than them."
Ole Miss and Tennessee will enter Saturday's showdown ranked among the nation's top-20 offenses, with the Rebels second at 561.6 yards per game and the Vols 19th at 474.0. They are both top-10 programs in rushing offense, with Ole Miss ranking fifth with 259.6 yards per game and the Vols seventh at 253.7.
Tennessee has allowed 41 and 38 points during its two losses, while the lone Ole Miss setback was a 42-21 defeat at Alabama, but Vols first-year coach Josh Heupel said he isn't approaching this week as having to score 40 or 50 to prevail.
"I don't think you want to go into this one just assuming that it's going to be a race for points," Heupel said. "Every game is going to unfold differently. You've got to play situational football and make sure that you get that first first down moving the football.
"The game will unfold as it kind of unfolds, and each game has its own identity."
Saturday's game also contains two incredibly productive quarterbacks. Ole Miss redshirt junior Matt Corral entered this month as the Heisman Trophy betting favorite before sustaining the loss in Tuscaloosa, but he ranks sixth nationally in passing efficiency (182.4), having thrown 12 touchdowns without being interceped.
Tennessee counterpart Hendon Hooker, the graduate transfer from Virginia Tech, is fifth in the country in efficiency (185.9) and has 13 touchdowns with only one pick.
"Matt Corral is a great quarterback, but we feel we have the same talent at quarterback and in our receiver room," Vols senior cornerback Alontae Taylor said. "Ole Miss goes tempo, but so does our offense. We went through this in spring ball and in fall camp.
"Tempo is not going to be an issue on Saturday. We'll be in shape, and we'll be ready to play."
The two quarterbacks have very similar rushing stats, with Corral averaging 51.0 yards a game, 4.4 yards per carry and eight touchdowns. Hooker averages 47.0 and 4.3 and has scored three times.
Ole Miss second-year coach Lane Kiffin is making his third trip to Knoxville since guiding the Vols to a 7-6 season in 2009, having served as Alabama's offensive coordinator for the 2014 and 2016 games in Neyland. Heupel's UCF Knights and Kiffin's Florida Atlantic Owls squared off during the 2018-19 seasons, with UCF rolling to 56-36 and 48-14 wins.
A far more notable bond for Heupel is with Ole Miss second-year offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby, who had the same role for Heupel at UCF.
"Jeff does a great job," Heupel said. "He was the quarterbacks coach at UCF when I first got the job there. He's a highly competitive guy who does a great job. There is a rhyme and reason for everything that he's doing. They are going to put defenses in conflict.
"I think we're the top two teams as far as plays per minute in Power Five football."
So rest up, folks. This Saturday may be exciting, but it could be a late one."
Tennessee inside linebacker Juwan Mitchell, the graduate transfer from Texas who led the Longhorns with 62 tackles last year, is through for this season after undergoing shoulder surgery. Mitchell had not played since the Sept. 25 loss at Florida.
"I hate it for him," Taylor said. "He's in good spirits. He's still here with the team, and he's still supporting the team."
Heupel said the majority of players who missed all or most of Saturday's win over the Gamecocks will be available this week, a list that includes running backs Jabari Small and Tiyon Evans, center Cooper Mays and safety Theo Jackson.
Kiffin's favorite pad
Kiffin said Monday in his news conference that his Knoxville residence was the favorite among all his homes during his previous coaching stops.
"It was a great house and a great setup with the river," Kiffin said. "I also really enjoyed the people there. I'm still in contact with a number of them and will see some of them Saturday."
The SEC on Monday named Vols resdshirt sophomore defensive back Brandon Turnage as its defensive player of the week. The transfer from Alabama earned his first career start due to injuries to Jackson and Doneiko Slaughter and tallied 14 tackles and two tackles for loss.
"Brandon is a great example of being prepared when his opportunity came," Heupel said. "He's done a great job on special teams, and he got a chance last Saturday to start. He did a great job in alignment, assignment and technique. He played with great effort, and he did a great job of tackling in space."
Odds and ends
Tennessee leads the series with Ole Miss 44-20-1 and hasn't lost to the Rebels in Knoxville since 1983. ... The Vols rank 27th nationally in turnover margin (plus-0.67 per game) after ranking last among the 130 Bowl Subdivision teams through two games. ... Tennessee has asked its fans to checkerboard Neyland Stadium this weekend. ... Tennessee's game next week against Alabama in Tuscaloosa will be televised by ESPN with a 7 p.m. kickoff.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.