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Q&A With Volunteer Country's Matt Ray

Ole Miss and Tennessee square off on Saturday night. Here are Matt Ray's thoughts on the game.

No. 13 Ole Miss will travel to Knoxville on Saturday to take on the Tennessee Volunteers, and The Grove Report sat down with Sports Illustrated's Volunteer Country to get their publisher's thoughts on the matchup.

Here's what Matt Ray had to say.

Q: Tennessee's offense has been clicking well lately. What do you think has been a key to that success? 

A: It starts with Hendon Hooker, obviously. He has surged since becoming the full-time starter in game three, and the offense has grown each week since. The offensive line rotation has been depleted due to injury, but Tennessee's ability to keep teams off balance with Hooker's legs and efficiency in the passing game has led to recent success. The duo of Tiyon Evans and Jabari Small have been a nice compliment out of the backfield, and the Vols have had success on first downs, which has allowed them to not play behind the chains.

Q: How do you think Tennessee tries to contain Matt Corral? And do you think they'll have any success doing so? 

A: Firstly, I feel that Matt Corral is the best quarterback in the country. There are just so many little things that he does well that make him special. His ability to evade defenders and rip chunks of yardage on in the run game just firmly sets him apart for me. Tennessee has been very good in pressure package situations with defensive coordinator Tim Banks sending guys out of nowhere, and that is what the Vols are going to have to do on Saturday. They are going to have be timely with pressures, have their edges, Tyler Baron and Byron Young, not lose their leverage and try to force Corral into the teeth of the defense. It is tough to say if they will be successful, but I think they are equipped to at least slow him down early on.

Q: Is there much (if anything) being said in and around Knoxville about Kiffin's return there this weekend? 

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A: Not as much as in past years. I think Coach Kiffin touched on it earlier this week, he has done this before, right? Now, given the fact that he is a head coach, and this is one of the biggest home game atmospheres in a couple of years for the Vols, there will be some extra energy in and around the stadium on Saturday, I am sure.

Q: What's the overall feeling of the fanbase regarding the job that Josh Heupel has done so far? 

A: Josh Heupel has been well-received to this point. The talk of culture change is cliche sometimes, but it has been genuine for this staff. It is evident from the coaches to the players, to the support, and I think that is the biggest reason for some of this early success. Right now, Josh Heupel is in as good of a spot as any first-year head coach at Tennessee has been since Phillip Fulmer.

Q: Final score prediction? 

A: I know Josh Heupel said you don't go into this game chasing points, and I think that stands for any game, but there will be points scored in this one, and likely a lot. It comes down to which defense gets off the field the most, and that is the tough part. I have liked Ole Miss all season long, and I still do, but I think the Vols have the momentum right now with Ole Miss coming off of two highly intense games. I will say Tennessee 52-48, but this one is a toss-up for me, and I wouldn't feel comfortable betting either team's moneyline.


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