DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 12th at 5:00 PM CST
WHERE: Neyland Stadium (Knoxville, Tennessee)
FORECAST: Mostly Cloudy, Wind 7 mph, Temp 67°F
BETTING LINE: Oklahoma -1.5 (O/U 63)
Tennessee isn’t going to apologize for running the ball straight at you, grinding down your defense, and taking time off the clock. However, they showed they can strike quickly as well a week ago against Bowling Green. In a 59-30 victory over the unranked Bowling Green Falcons the Volunteers answered some questions, but there appears to be some lingering issues that need to be resolved quickly.
The Vols defense had a very difficult time slowing down Bowling Green’s offense while allowing QB Matt Johnson to throw for 424 yards and two touchdowns. The secondary seems to be the particular weak spot of this defensive unit; which really should be no surprise considering they lost two projected starters to injuries this August.
They had to be enthused with the play on the offensive side of the ball though. The offensive line was an unexpected bright spot as the Vols were able to run the ball for 399 yards and pass for an additional 205 yards. All while only allowing just one sack.
TENNESSEE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Joshua Dobbs – A week ago, the junior quarterback didn’t need to do much more than effectively manage the game to ensure success. Facing the Oklahoma defense is a much more daunting prospect. Dobbs must maintain his poise and confidence in the pocket and focus on making the correct reads. If Dobbs can help the Vols sustain long drives and minimize mistakes they’ll be in the thick of things late.
Alvin Kamara – While the expectation might be to focus on running back Jalen Hurd, Alvin Kamara provides an injection of confidence and almost cockiness to this squad. Kamara ran for 144 yards on 15 carries last week and appears to be the perfect compliment to Jalen Hurd with his small and shifty running style. Kamara averaged 9.6 yards per carry against Bowling Green, and broke a long run of 56 yards. He provides the Vols with that much-needed home run threat out of the backfield.
Emmanuel Mosley – The sophomore cornerback was victimized for seven passes, 133 yards and a touchdown against Bowling Green’s Gehrig Dieter. This cannot happen consistently against Oklahoma if the they expect to win this matchup.
TENNESSEE’S KEYS TO THE GAME
Eat The Clock – Tennessee would be wise to try to get the most out of every second on each drive. Using up the clock will keep the explosive Sooner offense on the sidelines
Minimize Mistakes – Winning the turnover battle, or keeping it even at the very least, and keeping penalties to a minimum will be crucial.
Pass The Ball Effectively – The most viable offensive threat for the Volunteers is their running game. The Sooners will most likely begin the game by crowding the box. In order to make the Sooners retreat, Joshua Dobbs will need to establish himself as a formidable passing threat. If He’s unable to establish the passing game then this will be a very long night for the Vols.
WHAT TENNESSEE FANS WANT TO SEE
Tennessee fans will want to see their team take control at the line of scrimmage. Expectations are high, and there’s a confidence in Knoxville that they’re going to get the win.
After a slow start the Sooners put away the Akron Zips 41-3 to open the season. The Sooners offense took a while to get going, but received 388 yards and 3 touchdowns from new starting quarterback, Baker Mayfield.
In what may have been a surprise to some, the Sooners vaunted running attack only totaled 100 yards for all five running backs combined.
To have success in Knoxville, The Sooners will need to establish the run early, and they certainly can’t afford a slow start.
OKLAHOMA PLAYERS TO WATCH
Baker Mayfield – The Sooners coaching staff allowed Mayfield to become comfortable against Akron by dialing up several short-yardage passing plays early. He’ll need that early confidence on the road in a hostile environment. The last time we saw him in this situation he was playing for the Red Raiders, and he was dropped in the backfield seven times. If Mayfield plays his best and lives up to expectations though, OU should be adding points to the scoreboard in bunches.
Samaje Perine – Perine is the team’s ace running back and the most difficult to defend. Perine can beat the defense by being quicker to the hole, or by absorbing punishment while continuing to move ahead. Establishing the run, and Perine specifically, will do a lot alleviate pressure on Baker Mayfield and the passing game. If Perine runs the ball effectively Mayfield will have time to pick apart the Vols secondary.
Eric Striker – Striker’s comments about the SEC didn’t go unnoticed, by anyone, but he, along with the Sooner defense, definitely have their chance to make a statement on Saturday night.
OKLAHOMA’S KEYS TO THE GAME
Run The Ball – Last week OU struggled to establish the run against an Akron defense that sold out to stop it. OU may have to use the pass to open up the run again this week, but if they aren’t able to get yards on the ground, it could be a long day.
Freeze Josh Dobbs – The Sooners defense will need to force Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs to make mistakes. If Josh Dobbs is not allowed to establish himself in this game then the Vols become one-dimensional and it’s game over.
Control The Line – This game could be decided in the trenches. If OU wins that battle, they’ll be poised to win much more than just in Knoxville.
WHAT OKLAHOMA FANS WANT TO SEE
Fans want to see the lethal offense that they’ve been promised all offseason. More than that though, they want to see a team ready to compete for the college football championship, and that begins with beating Tennessee.
The strength of the Oklahoma defense is against the run. They’ll sell out to shut down Tennessee’s rushing attack and force the Vols to beat them through the air. Tennessee might be able to keep it close, but OU’s fast-paced, multi-dimensional offense will prove to be too much. The Sooners grab an impressive win on the road.