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2015 MAC football non-conference previews: Tennessee Volunteers

They'll be opening up the season against Bowling Green in Nashville.

Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

The Bowling Green Falcons have one hellacious non-conference schedule ahead of them in 2015. It took an unfortunate turn of events in Birmingham to make this game possible, but the Dino Babers-led Falcons will be playing against the Tennessee Volunteers on September 5 at L.P. Field, home of the Tennessee Titans.

While the SEC West teams were making national headlines every minute of the season last year, the Volunteers were struggling in the SEC, but eventually kicked it into high gear going 4-1 once November hit. A .500 team throughout the regular season that ended the season with a big win over Iowa in the TaxSlayer Bowl last year is now expected to be contenders for the SEC East title.

Former Central Michigan Chippewas head coach Butch Jones is the current coach for the Vols. CMU hired him for his first head coaching position which lasted from 2007-09, ending with a 27-13 overall record. In 2009, his Chippewas beat Bowling Green 24-10 at Doyt Perry Stadium, coached by Dave Clawson in his first year with their program.

If there's one area that Tennessee could dominate against BGSU, it's with their defensive line. Last year, they had to replace seven of their top eight defensive linemen, but now they're in a situation where they only lose Jordan Williams from last year's roster. The two defensive ends Derek Barnett and Curt Maggitt combined for 21 sacks last year. Barnett had 72 tackles as a true freshman, earning Second Team All-SEC honors as well. Another defensive lineman to watch for is true freshman Kahlil McKenzie, the second-best defensive tackle in the nation by 247Sports.

The absolute best part about Bowling Green's offense is their talented group of wide receivers. Here's the skinny on Tennessee's secondary: they gave up 196.2 yards through the air on defense (22nd in in the nation) and three of the four projected starters are returners.

Among the ten returning starters on offense includes sophomore running back Jalen Hurd. A Heisman contender by Athlon Sports, racked up 899 rushing yards as a true freshman last year, the fourth-leading rusher in the SEC. He also caught 35 passes for 221 yards last year. Making nine starts in his 13 games played, Hurd rushed for over 100 yards four times, most by a true freshman since Jamal Lewis (7) in 1997. Out of high school, he was the top prospect from the state of Tennessee per 247Sports composite.

Quarterback Joshua Dobbs won over the starting quarterback job in the middle of the season. A four-star prospect out of high school made his first start as a true freshman in late October at Missouri, eight true freshman to start as a quarterback in school history. He didn't keep the starting job right away but ended up winning four of the five games that he did start at the latter-end of the season. He ended up being second on the team in rushing, and completed 63 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns, and a bowl win. That's going to be head coach Butch Jones' dude heading into 2015, and easily one of the most exciting QBs in the SEC to look out for.

Among Phil Steele's top 40 wide receivers heading into 2015 includes Marquez North, a 6-foot-4 junior. North has started in all 21 games that he's played in, including the 2013 season opener against Austin Peay. In his second collegiate game, he made a really sweet SportsCenter Top 10 catch. He and other returners in Pig Howard and Josh Malone all combine for 202 receptions for 2,107 yards and 11 scores heading into this season.

The last MAC team Tennessee faced off against was a 47-26 victory over the Akron Zips in 2012. The Vols stand at 5-0 all-time against MAC opponents.