Oregon Ducks (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS), 7:00 p.m. EST, College Football Week 2, Saturday, September 11, 2010, Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee
By Scotty L, Professional College Football Handicapper of Predictem.com
Point Spread: U of O –13.5/Vols +13.5
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The University of Oregon Ducks travel to Knoxville on Saturday to take on the Tennessee Volunteers. These teams have never met before, but should make for an interesting game. Both squads are coming off week one blowouts, however their identities have not been cast in stone yet. We know what we have with these teams to some degree, but the dye has yet to be cast. As it stands now, the 11th ranked Ducks look to be a Pac-10 power this year, while Tennessee figures to suffer from growing pains in a year of transition and rebuilding.
Oregon CRUSHED New Mexico 72-0 last week to underline their potential. The tandem quarterback unit of Nick Costa and Darron Thomas clicked wonderfully, while the running game seemed in full bloom. With LeMichael James serving a one-game suspension, Kenjon Barner ran for four touchdowns and caught another one, showing Oregon’s explosiveness and depth and offense. 14 different players caught passes! Cliff Harris was running wild on kickoff and punt returns. It was quite a show of force. Their ballyhooed defense also looked great, giving up a paltry 107 yards of total offense.
Tennessee’s defense, expected to be a strong suit of the team, gave up only 142 yards of total offense, but their offense also played surprisingly well, albeit against Division I-AA Tennessee-Martin. Quarterback Matt Simms, son of the New York Giant legend, has the genes and now has the opportunity to shine in his first year as a Division I starter. He was just 14-24 for 181 yards and one touchdown against the woeful Tennessee-Martin “D” and might struggle against a legitimate big-time defense on Saturday. The Volunteer running game did put up over 300 yards, but we’ll see how well that translates against a nationally ranked opponent.
How much can one gleam from last week’s blowouts? Perhaps not much. Whereas both teams were ice-skating last week, this might be more of a trudge through the mud. Last week’s numbers will not be matched this week, with both teams in a much more difficult spot. Tennessee has a young QB, an offensive line returning no starters, an unproven backfield, and a defense facing a lot of question marks after the departure of top players. With their third different coach in 3 years, there is no stability. Their recruiting class was left in tatters after coach Lane Kiffin made a late departure to USC. These things didn’t manifest against Tennessee-Martin, but they will in spades against the talented Ducks.
If Oregon can continue having things click into place, they could have a special year. Games like this, however, are always tough. Making a long trip to play in front of a rabid SEC hometown crowd is not easy. The Oregon quarterbacks will be tested. Nevertheless, the Ducks are fortunate to not be drawing one of the good Tennessee teams from the past. This Volunteers team is probably a bottom-half SEC team this year that figures to struggle. On offense, they need a lot of stars to line up correctly and their defense is relying on inexperienced players to fill in gaps for guys who were either drafted in the first round or suspended last year.
Matt Simms, operating behind a patchwork O-line, will be up against it. Oregon figures to aggressively pursue him and the Volunteers will struggle to establish the run. On defense, they may be a bit more effective, with a strong pair of ends in Chris Walker and Ben Martin, in addition to a strong linebacking crew. Their pass rush could give Thomas and Costa something to think about.
Scotty L’s Pick to Cover the Spread: Tennessee’s D-line is weak inside, which should give way to a lot of Oregon first downs. With the Volunteer secondary in shambles after the departure of Eric Berry and the suspension of Darren Myles, they will be vulnerable on Saturday. The Ducks will not be flying up and down the field the way they did against the awful Lobos squad, but they will thrive.
Tennessee’s shortcomings will be exploited by one of the better teams in the nation on Saturday. Their offensive line will struggle, putting tremendous strain on Matt Simms and the rest of the offense. How many points can they realistically score facing a Ducks defense that is one of the best in the nation? The running game could conceivably give the smaller Ducks D-line some problems, but looking good against a Division I-AA team is one thing and this is a different proposition altogether.
I see Oregon establishing themselves quickly, while Tennessee struggles to keep up. The Volunteers could catch a couple breaks in the form of some turnovers to keep it close early. The Ducks, however, have too many weapons on both sides of the ball to be kept down for long. The opening line of Oregon –13.5 is by no means a gimme. It could be a tough road game that ends up 24-14, or something like that. But I envision a reasonably close game that breaks open a bit in the second half, with Oregon cruising to a cover. Before the line creeps up, take the Quack Attack minus 13.5 points.
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