Week 3 - Tennessee at Oregon
Tennessee RB Rajion Neal
Tennessee RB Rajion Neal
Posted Sep 11, 2013

Week 3 Fearless Prediction & Preview - Tennessee at Oregon

Tennessee (2-0) at Oregon (2-0) Sept. 14, 3:30, ESPN

Why You Should Give A Hoot: Head coach Butch Jones has energized Rocky Top since arriving earlier in the year. He'll send Knoxville into a state of euphoria with an upset in Eugene this week.

Jones and his Vols are playing with house money this weekend. No one expects them to knock off the nation's No. 2 team on the road, but just getting that opportunity will serve as a learning experience for the young squad. Tennessee, despite still being very much in a rebuilding phase, has begun to lay a foundation with wins over Austin Peay and Western Kentucky. In the end, 2013 for Jones is all about building some momentum that can be carried into 2014.

At least through two games, Oregon appears as potent as ever. No Chip Kelly, yet no problem hanging 125 combined points on Nicholls State and Virginia. The 59-10 rout of the Cavaliers was especially impressive because it occurred across the country against an underrated D. This is the Ducks' final non-conference tune-up before Pac-12 play begins on Sept. 28.

Why Tennessee Might Win: Beating Oregon at Autzen will require game-changing plays, such as turnovers. The Vols have been pretty good at that so far in 2013.

No one in America has created more takeaways through two games than Tennessee. Now, the Hilltoppers' sloppiness a week ago was certainly a contributing factor, but the Vols have been undeniably more aggressive under coordinator John Jancek so far. LB A.J. Johnson and S Brian Randolph have been especially active for Jancek. On offense, UT has the O-line hosses to create running room for Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane, while keeping the Oregon offense on the sidelines.

Why Oregon Might Win: Tennessee may be improving on defense, but it's a long way from being reliable, which is about to get exposed on Saturday.

While the Vols have a core of talent with which to work, they lack the speed, depth and experience to corral the Ducks. In other words, they're like all but a couple of FBS defenses. With QB Marcus Mariota and RB De'Anthony Thomas in charge, Oregon is averaging a gaudy 10 yards per carry, exploding through the wide running lanes created by the blockers. As Mariota improves as a passer, attempting to stop the Ducks' offense is like grabbing the wind.

Who To Watch Out For: Always overshadowed by the fireworks, the Oregon D is playing real well so far this season. The Ducks have yielded just one offensive touchdown, while getting to the quarterback eight times. This trip will be especially daunting for young Tennessee QB Justin Worley.

- Junior Derrick Malone is quickly addressing Oregon's offseason concerns at linebacker. The starter at weakside already has 23 tackles, and will be eyeing Neal and Lane all afternoon.

- Tennessee NT Daniel McCullers vs. Oregon C Hroniss Grasu will draw yawns from everyone except NFL scouts. This is a game-within-the-game that deserves its own channel.

- The young and raw Volunteer wide receivers have a minimal chance of solving the Oregon DBs, a crew of upperclassmen led by CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. If the wideouts are tied up, it means the linemen get that extra tick or two to disrupt Worley's timing.

What Will Happen: The future at Tennessee is bright. The present, though, is going to bring the occasional reality check. The Volunteers aren't ready to compete with the likes of Oregon, though that's the goal that Jones and his staff are feverishly working toward. Not only are the Ducks machine-like on offense, but the D is carrying its weight as well. The outcome on Saturday could be decided before halftime.
Prediction: Oregon 52 … Tennessee 20
Line: Oregon -27.5 – O/U: 71
Must See Rating: (5 Boardwalk Empire – 1 Teen Beach Movie) … 3.5