Even for the die-hard Tennessee fans, Saturday’s game versus Buffalo doesn’t exactly get the blood pumping.
In all likelihood, the Volunteers will overwhelm the Bulls and have the contest in hand by the middle of the third quarter.
Still, there is plenty of intrigue for UT heading into its fourth game of the year.
No, I’m not going to try to over-hype an SEC team’s game against a 1-3 MAC school, but after two weeks of preparing for the remainder of the season without Justin Hunter, Saturday will be the first time for fans to see a re-tooled Vols’ offense.
Da’Rick Rogers is now UT’s clear-cut No. 1 receiver, whether he’s ready for it or not. The oft-injured Zach Rogers is now a starter and will be asked to do more than just primarily line up in the slot.
Freshmen DeAnthony Arnett and Vincent Dallas will be thrown into the mix quicker than expected. Matt Milton has the opportunity to get on the field. Rajion Neal, the team’s No. 2 rusher last season and one of the fastest players on the team, is now working exclusively at receiver and brings a play-making threat for coaches to utilize.
Saturday will be the first time for these receivers to play their post-Hunter role on this year’s team. Obviously coaches won’t get settled on a rotation any time soon, and it will vary week-to-week given the team’s gameplan, but Tyler Bray is going to continue throwing 30-plus times per game, especially if UT’s running game doesn’t improve.
 Speaking of UT’s run game, the Vols rank “dead stinkin’ last” in the SEC, averaging just 2.4 yards per carry and 81.7 yards per game. And that was with opposing defenses respecting UT’s passing game with Hunter.
Derek Dooley isn’t as worried as some are with the lack of production on the ground, but it must improve if the Vols are going to beat any SEC teams outside of Vanderbilt and Kentucky and possibly get into contention for an eastern division title.
To energize the running game, the Vols could use freshman Tom Smith and Devrin Young, two polar opposite players, on the Bulls. Smith is a straight-ahead bruiser who can pick up tough yards while Young is an under-sized back who uses his speed and elusiveness to his advantage.
Whatever UT tries to fix with its running game and replacing Hunter, it begins Saturday. And while coaches and players won’t admit it, Buffalo is a tune-up game for the rest of the Vols’ October schedule, which includes the two best teams in the country, LSU and Alabama.