Mississippi State staying coy about QB plans for Tennessee

Tennessee quarterback Brian Maurer (18) outruns a Georgia defender in the second half of a 43-14 loss to the Bulldogs. [WADE PAYNE/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS]

When: 11 a.m., Saturday

Where: Knoxville, Tenn.

TV: SEC Network

The series: Tennessee leads 28-16-1

The line: Mississippi State by 6 1/2

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Four-down territory

1. Fresh change: Three quarterbacks worked out with the first team during the week off leading up to the Georgia game, but coach Jeremy Pruitt found a way to change up the offense by starting freshman Brian Maurer against the Bulldogs. Maurer brought excitement to the offense when he connected with Marquez Callaway for a 73-yard touchdown and he hit Jauan Jennings to put the Vols ahead 14-10 in the first half.

2. Tough finish: Maurer went on to complete 10 of 17 passes for 205 yards and became the first Vol to throw for 200 yards in a half since Josh Dobbs in 2016. Maurer finished 14 of 28 with one interception and three sacks. … Jennings had seven catches for 114 yards and Callaway had three catches for 105 yards, with one touchdown each. It was the first time the Vols had two 100-yard receivers since 2012.

3. Leading the pack: Kylin Hill not only leads the Bulldogs in rushing, but he leads the SEC as well. He has 596 yards and is averaging 119.2 yards per game. Graduate transfer Tommy Stevens has thrown for 448 yards and five touchdowns, and has run for two scores as well.

4. Long time coming: This is the first meeting between these teams since 2012 and the first matchup in Knoxville since a Tennessee win in 2008. After this year, they are not scheduled to play again until 2024.

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By the numbers

4: Jennings needs four catches to match his total of 30 from all of last season. He already has two 100-plus games thus far this year.

95.7: Paxton Brooks has recorded a touchback on 22 of 23 kickoffs this year, giving him a 95.7 percentage of touchbacks. The Vols are the only team in the nation not to allow a kickoff return.

1: During his first season last year, Pruitt led the Vols to their first win over a over an SEC West opponent since 2010. A win over Mississippi State or Alabama would give Tennessee wins over West Division rivals in consecutive years for the first time since 2007-2008.

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Player of the week

Brent Cimaglia, kicker

Before missing a kick last week against Georgia, Cimaglia’s nine field goals is the second-most made in the SEC. He tied his field goals made in a game with four against BYU and tied his long at 51 yards as well. He has made 13 straight extra points to continue Tennessee’s streak of 200 straight extra points, third in the nation behind Auburn and Georgia.

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Prediction

Mississippi State 31, Tennessee 17

At the start of the season this looked like a game Tennessee would have a good chance of winning. Now, even though this game is in Knoxville, Mississippi State is expected to easily handle the Vols. Tennessee put up a decent showing against a superior Georgia team, but another moral victory might not be enough to keep the fans happy, especially with Alabama on the way.

— Dennis Tymkiw

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