Before kickoff between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Oregon Ducks football team, the EDN Sports team gives their analysis and predictions.
Kickoff: Saturday, September 14th @ 12:30 p.m. PST
Autzen Stadium (Eugene, Oregon)
Spread: Oregon -27.5 (Vegas Insider)
After two tuneup games in Nicholls and Virginia, the Ducks will finally receive an actual test. At least comparatively.
This will be the second time these two teams have met with the first in 2010 when the Ducks clobbered the Vols to the tune of a 48-13 victory in Knoxville. While few members of either team are still in college football, Vols fans still want vengeance. However, the Ducks are just too loaded and I would be shocked if Oregon wins by less than three touchdowns.
Even with the Ducks offense struggling at times to move the football, particularly with the aerial struggles of quarterback Marcus Mariota, running back Byron Marshall and tight end Colt Lyerla, the weapons of De’Anthony Thomas, Josh Huff and more will create matchup nightmares for the Vols’ defenders.
I expect this game to be close going into halftime, but mid-way through the third quarter the Ducks will begin to pull away. Tennessee will be forced to beat the Ducks through the air to conserve time, allowing a situation like last week where a Dior Mathis can bring an interception back 97 yards.
Oregon’s ballhawks should be flying around the field forcing turnovers all game. Don’t be surprised if Oregon finishes the game with three or more interceptions.
For more on my expectations of the game, click HERE and listen to the audio beginning 11:00 minutes into the clip.
Score Prediction: Oregon 45, Virginia 20
Game MVP: Josh Huff
You could say the script is a little bit flipped. Tennessee, hailing from the mighty Southeastern Conference, is the team looking for an upset win against a Pac-12 school. And while the Ducks are favorites entering the game, Tennessee is confident they can get the upset.
“All we know is we’re the only people who think we’re going to win,” Tennessee senior offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James said. “That’s all we need.”
Beating the Ducks means slowing down Mark Helfrich‘s offense. With Scott Frost calling plays and Marcus Mariota running the show, the Ducks have ran a play once every 17 seconds this season. Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said of the Ducks offense after the opening day win over Nicholls that it’s either three-and-out or three-and-in.
And more often than not, it’s been the latter. The Ducks have seven touchdown drives of less than two minutes.
Lining up against that Duck offense is a Tennessee defense that has allowed 20 points on the season. The Vols have allowed just over 300 yards per game this season, slightly better than Oregon’s 320, but the Vols are tied with Northwestern for the national lead in interceptions.
If Tennessee’s defensive backs can pester Mariota into making uncharacteristic mistakes in the first quarter, Tennessee may have a chance–but that’s a big if.
Score Prediction: Oregon 42, Virginia 27
Game MVP: Marcus Mariota
The Oregon Ducks will attempt to finish off its preseason schedule unscathed against the undefeated Tennessee Volunteers Saturday afternoon. The Volunteers have bounced back well from a disappointing 5-7 season last year, first holding Austin Peay scoreless and then causing seven Western Kentucky turnovers last week.
So far the Vols have adequately replaced longtime quarterback Tyler Bray with junior quarterback Justin Worley. Though Worley has only thrown for 123 yards per game this year, he has a 4-1 touchdown to interception ratio. But if Worley can’t handle the deafening Autzen Stadium crowd and the Ducks uber-fast defense, the Vols could go back to Knoxville with their tail between their legs.
Once again, Thomas Tyner will be on the mind of Duck fans worldwide. Gary Campbell announced this week that he considers Tyner option 2b on the depth chart. It will be interesting to see how many carries he takes away from Byron Marshall and the effect a little competition has on both backs.
But the Ducks won’t be the only team on the field with multiple productive backs. Tennessee running backs Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane both come into the game averaging over six yards per carry and have led the Vols to a ranking of 23rd in the nation in rush yards.
The blemish of Tennessee’s game against Western Kentucky was being outgained, but when you force seven turnovers, yards are rendered meaningless. In order to beat Oregon, lightening might have to strike twice for the Vols D. But I have a funny feeling it won’t.
Score Prediction: Oregon 55, Tennessee 13
Game MVP: Josh Huff
Hey rabid Vols fans, you’re right! Justin Worley is the second coming of Peyton Manning in college football. The Tennessee lines, despite not being in the upper echelons of the SEC’s best big boys, are going to rip in through the hippies up front and disrupt all those gimmicks that we all know Oregon likes to pull. And that offensive line is going to open up several holes for Rajion Neal.
The Ducks are going to punt a couple times and all the haters will admit that the days of Tennessee being a joke are over. And then the first quarter is going to end.
Not going to lie, the Nicholls game was scary to anyone watching it with a long game in mind. The offense didn’t look good, Tyner didn’t play, the defense didn’t break — but it sure did bend. But the Ducks looked very strong in the second half against Virginia and will probably carry a lot of momentum into this contest.
The Ducks face the biggest question mark of this early season in Tennessee’s defense. The Vols have picked up nine turnovers from their opponents this year and hold a +7 turnover margin this season, and they have a very experienced front seven featuring five seniors and two juniors. They didn’t give up a point to Austin Peay and only surrendered 20 points to the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky — despite those Hilltoppers outgaining them in offensive yards.
The serious point I made earlier is still true. This will probably be a competitive football contest for one quarter. The Ducks will likely trail at one point and I project the score will be 10-7 Vols after one. I feel like it’s going to be one big defensive play (think Dior Mathis last week or Cliff Harris against Tennessee in 2010) though that turns the tides and the second half will be, once again, all Oregon.
Score Prediction: Oregon 52, Tennessee 17
Game MVP: Marcus Mariota