Oregon vs. Tennessee
Pointspread: Oregon State -12 O/U 53.5
Games pitting schools from different power confereNCes are not only fun for bragging rights, but also for wagering. Can a run of the mill SEC team hang with a top Pac-10 team? You will be rewarded handsomely if you think so as the Tennessee Volunteers are a 12 point dog to beat the Oregon Ducks. The Vols started the year with a 50-0 win over Tennessee-Martin. The Game was HC Derek Dooley’s debut. Oregon did them one better by downing New Mexico 72-0. In the process they proved life will be very good without QB Jeremiah Masoli. The Volunteers will host this Game at Neyland Stadium which ranked #5 in the country in average attendaNCe at 99,220 last year. It will be a great crowd for the home team.
The Volunteers will be fielding a young offense that returns just 3 starters from a year ago. Those three starters are 2 WRs and a TE. The offensive line has the 3rd fewest combined starts in the NCAA. LUcky for Derek Dooley and company, the Ducks defensive line isn’t much to write home about. QB Matt Simms looked OK in his debut as the starter. He passed for 1 TD and 181 yards on 14/24. He probably should’ve done much better against such a lowly opponent. Winning this Game through the air will be tough for the Vols as Oregon has a top secondary.
RB Tauren Poole will be relied upon heavily here. He had 110 yards and 2 TDs against Tennessee-Martin. He was impressive in the spring. Freshman Raijon Neal and sophomore David Oku are also solid options when Dooley decides to pound the rock. Neal had 79 yards on 9 carries last week. Oku put up 77 yards and a TD while breaking free on a 44 yard GAin.
The Volunteers defense has 6 starters back from last year. They pitched a shutout to start the season, but it was against a very weak offense. The defensive line boasts many top recruits. Look for them to hang tough with Oregon’s top notch offensive line. The secondary is going to be weaker with the loss of Eric Berry. This shouldn’t be too bad on the Vols as Oregon will try and do most of their damage on the ground. The defense has so step up here against an Oregon team that posted 72 points last week. New Mexico or not, that’s a LOT of points.
Sophomore Darron Thomas was effective taking over for Masoli. He had 220 yards for 2 TDs and 1 INT last week. Playing in front of a hostile Tennessee crowd won’t be easy for him, but he is surrounded by experieNCed players who will bail him out when he makes mistakes. The offensive line is completely intact so don’t expect to see him sacked more than one or two times if at all. RB LAMichael James will return after a suspension. The sophomore is a bruising runner. He posted 1,608 yards in the abseNCe of LeGArette Blount last year. Senior WR Jeff Maehl is an effective target. He grabbed 6 TD passes in 2009. The Ducks have severely other running backs that can be effective iNCluding Kenjon Barner. He picked up 147 yards and a whopping 4 TDs in week one.
The Ducks defense has 8 starters back from a team that GAve up 23.8 PPG a year ago. Clearly, they are going to better this year. Winning this Game on defense starts with the line. DE Kenny Rowe had a whopping 11.5 sacks last year. Casey Matthews had 3 playing LB. The secondary is among the top in the country and will stifle any attempts by Tennessee’s freshman QB to get things going in the air.
Clearly Oregon is the better team, but can they cover 12 points on the road in front of an SEC crowd? We don’t think so. This is more of a play on the SEC over the PAC 10. 100,000 fans clad in orange won’t hurt either. Expect the Tennessee defense to keep them in this one. Vols +12