No. 9 Tennessee opens its 2023 home slate Saturday with an evening showdown against Austin Peay. This marks the fifth-straight non-COVID season that the Volunteers have hosted an in-state FCS program as part of their nonconference schedule; the Vols played an all-SEC slate in 2020.
The Vols opened their third season under coach Josh Heupel with a Week 1 win against Virginia. The Vols cruised to a 49-13 victory in front of a sold-out crowd inside Nashville’s Nissan Stadium. The Vols were technically the home team vs. the Cavaliers, but this will be the first game of the season at Neyland Stadium.
Austin Peay lost 49-23 at Southern Illinois in its first game of the year. The Governors haven’t won against an FBS program since 1987 when they beat Kansas State 26-22. Austin Peay did score 27 points against Western Kentucky in 2022, falling just two possessions short of upsetting the Hilltoppers. It also held Alabama to its lowest scoring total (34) against an FCS opponent since 2016.
This is the first time since 2020 that Tennessee has deferred its home opener to the second week of the season. The Vols have never lost to an FCS school, and they hold a 48.5-point scoring advantage against FCS programs under Heupel. Tennessee has beaten each FCS team it has played since 2012 by at least 35 points
How to watch Tennessee vs. Austin Peay live
Date: Saturday, Sept. 9 | Time: 5 p.m. ET
Location: Neyland Stadium — Knoxville, Tennessee
Live stream: ESPN+
Tennessee vs. Austin Peay: Need to know
Tennessee honoring a legend: Tennessee has to wear some sort of “Smokey Grey” alternate uniform at least once per season as part of its current apparel contract with Nike. The Vols are taking advantage of that Saturday to honor a program legend in Condredge Holloway, the first Black quarterback to ever start a game in the SEC. Saturday marks 51 years, to the day, since Holloway’s first start with the Vols. Earlier in the week, Tennessee unveiled a spin on its normal “Smokey Grey” uniforms that feature orange around the shoulder pads, a white outline on the numbers and a throwback light grey face mask, harkening back to the away uniforms Tennessee wore while Holloway was the starting QB.
Tennessee tune-up: No offense to Austin Peay, but the Vols shouldn’t have too much trouble cruising to a win on Saturday. It’s exactly what Heupel and Co. need before Tennessee’s schedule gets brutal. The Vols open conference play on Sept. 16 with a road trip to Florida, where they have not won since 2003. After that, Tennessee enters a homestand that features UTSA — back-to-back Conference USA champions — with games vs. South Carolina and Texas A&M, before traveling to Alabama for the Third Saturday in October.
Austin Peay rocked by transfer portal: Austin Peay finished second in the ASUN last year, behind FBS newcomer Jacksonville State, and even pushed Western Kentucky to its limit in the season opener. However, the 2023 Governors look entirely different. Leading receiver Drae McCray transferred to Texas Tech after fielding interest from programs all around the country. On defense, Austin Peay’s leading tacklers in Antoine Williams and Josh Randolph both transferred out, while the co-interception leaders — defensive backs Demetries Ford and Shamari Simmons — both enrolled at Arizona State out of the portal.