Here are three keys for Tennessee on Thursday in its Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl matchup with North Carolina:
1. Pressure T.J. Yates: One of the more improved players in the ACC, Yates was the backbone of North Carolina’s offense this season, particularly with all the issues the Tar Heels encountered at running back. The last thing the Vols want to do is allow Yates to get into a rhythm early. Pressuring him into some early mistakes and getting the Tar Heels into a lot of third-and-long situations is the kind of tone the Vols need to set defensively.
2. Avoid special-teams mistakes: Tennessee’s problems catching punts this season have been well-chronicled. And with two teams this evenly matched, giving up an easy score because of a special-teams blunder would probably be the difference. The Vols don’t necessarily have to win special teams to win this game, but a critical mistake could easily cost them the game.
3. Take advantage of the crowd: It’s going to feel like a home game with so much orange in the stands, and the Vols need to capitalize on that environment by starting quickly and forcing the Tar Heels to play from behind.