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Texas A&M vs. Tennessee Stats Preview by PFF

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It’s a battle of elite pass rushers on Saturday.

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Texas A&M v Auburn Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images

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When Tennessee has the ball…

  • The offensive line has been one of Tennessee’s most consistent issues this season, struggling to provide quarterback Josh Dobbs with sufficient protection and failing to produce a single positive run blocking grade among their starting five. As a unit, the Volunteers line ranks 62nd out of 65 Power-5 teams with a 76.9 pass blocking efficiency rating and has surrendered 48 total pressures on the year, 7th most in the nation. They will be facing an A&M defense that currently ranks 2nd in the nation in pass rush grade and features possibly the best defensive end duo in college football in Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall. Even with missing last week’s game, Garrett leads all Power-5 edge rushers with his 89.7 pass rush grade and ranks third nationally with 26 total QB pressures this year. Hall isn’t far behind, totaling 17 pressures this season and ranking among the leaders at his position with 11 run stops.
  • Despite the lack of a clean pocket, quarterback Josh Dobbs has performed fairly well when facing pressure this season. His 63.6 percent accuracy rate on pressured dropbacks ranks 10th in the nation and he leads all of college football with seven touchdown passes when under pressure. Dobbs has allowed 18.9 percent of his pressured dropbacks to result in a sack, however, the 14th highest sack percentage in the country.
  • After a slow start to the year, Dobbs has been much improved as a passer over the last three games, especially when pushing the ball downfield. During the last three weeks, Dobbs leads the nation with a 78.6 percent accuracy rate on throws traveling 20+yards downfield. Where Dobbs truly excels though is as a runner. For the season, he has picked up 363 rushing yards, 256 of which have come after contact, and has forced 11 missed tackles on 55 attempts.
  • Tennessee’s biggest threats in the passing game will be wide receivers Jauan Jennings and Josh Malone. Both players rank in the top-10 among SEC receivers in WR rating, deep pass catch rate, and deep pass receiving yardage. Malone has been the biggest playmaker downfield for Tennessee and leads the SEC with his five receptions of 20+yards this season. Aggie safety Justin Evans ranks 15th at his position with an 84.8 coverage grade this year, but outside of he and Armani Watts (78.0) the A&M secondary has had its struggles in coverage this season. Nick Harvey and Donovan Wilson have been frequently targeted, seeing the first and third most targets in the SEC respectively. Harvey’s 1.81 yards per cover snap allowed is the third most in the conference and an area he will have to improve upon this week.
  • The Tennessee backfield of Jalen Hurd (77.2) and Alvin Kamara (58.5) have not quite played up to expectations this season and collectively have just 563 rushing yards through five games. Their offensive line has not done them any favors, however, as they’ve had to pick up 85 percent of their yards after contact meaning there haven’t been great running lanes available. They’ll be facing an A&M defense that has been much improved against the run this year, with Myles Garrett (82.8), Claude George (77.3) and Kingsley Keke (76.8) all earning solid run defense grades so far.

When Texas A&M has the ball…

  • The Aggie offensive line will be facing one of the nation’s best pass rushers on Saturday in Tennessee’s Derek Barnett. Through five games, Barnett ranks 11th nationally with a 13.1 pass rushing productivity rating and is just behind Myles Garrett with 24 total QB pressures this year. The Volunteers frequently move Barnett around on defense, with 39 percent of his snaps coming from the defense’s left side and 61 percent coming from the right, meaning both A&M offensive tackles will have to be prepared to face him this weekend. Left tackle Avery Gennesy ranks fifth in the SEC with his 98.3 pass block efficiency rating while right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor ranks 19th with a 96.2 rating. Between Barnett and Corey Vereen (11 total pressures), the A&M offensive line will face one of their toughest tests this season.
  • Trayveon Williams continues to establish himself as A&M’s biggest weapon on offense, earning the third highest overall grade among the SEC’s running backs this season. Williams is college football’s seventh most elusive back and the nation’s only runner to force at least 20 missed tackles on less than 55 rushing attempts. The Volunteers defense has a solid group of run defenders that will be looking to slow him down, led by edge defenders Derek Barnett (81.0 run defense grade), Corey Vereen (79.9) and linebacker Colton Jumper (81.3).
  • Quarterback Trevor Knight has been a highly effective runner this season, totaling 316 yards on 32 designed QB runs and averaging 5.1 yards after contact per carry. As a passer, Knight has flashed great ability at times but still has room to improve. He’s done most of his damage on underneath routes, with 80 percent of his completions coming on throws traveling less than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage.
  • Wide receiver Josh Reynolds has been Trevor Knight’s most reliable target this season and ranks ninth in the SEC with a 126.7 WR rating through five games. Reynolds remains the SEC’s leader with 219 receiving yards on deep pass attempts but will be facing a solid Tennessee secondary led by Emmanuel Moseley (76.7), Micah Abernathy (76.3) and Todd Kelly Jr. (73.7). Safeties Abernathy and Kelly Jr. have been impressive in coverage, each allowing less than 0.43 yards per cover snap this season. Moseley has played fairly well since taking over the starters role, but could be a frequent target of the A&M passing attack as he’s allowed a reception once every 8.9 cover snaps, the fifth highest rate in the SEC.
  • Wide receiver Christian Kirk has been the SEC’s third most targeted receiver this season, seeing the ball thrown his way an average of 10 times per game. He leads all SEC receivers in routes (152) and receptions (29) out of the slot and ranks second in yards (262). Expect the A&M offense to continue to target him early and often on Saturday, as Tennessee’s primary slot defender Rashaan Gaulden has allowed 67 percent of throws into his coverage to be completed and has surrendered an average of 5.87 yards after the catch.