Friday, September 13, 2013

Oregon Football 2013 Game Three: Will the Vols Burn?

I was chatting with some Tennessee fans wearing burnt orange (their main color) in a casual atmosphere tonight (read: at a bar) when one of them said, “I think we get our ass kicked, but I think we score 28 points on y'all.”

My first thought was “28 points? How long has it been since Oregon even gave up 28 points?” Then it was, “Buddy, if you score 28 points on Oregon, then you're probably going to win the thing.” And the third “When was the last time Oregon gave up 28 points and won?”

The last time Oregon gave up at least 28 points and won was actually just last fall, when USC scored 51 in Oregon's 11-point victory at the Coliseum. Now, USC scored their last seven points in the final second, when the game was clearly Oregon's, but still. The time before that was the first game of 2012, when Arkansas State scored 34, and got their final touchdown with 4:30 to play (a game that Oregon led at one point 50-3, and won 57-34).

The sum of this is that if you score at least 28 points against Oregon, unless you happened to trail 50-3 at one point, you're probably in a competitive game against them. Consider the 2011 season. Lost to LSU, 40-27. Beat Arizona, 56-31. Beat WSU, 43-28. Beat Stanford, 53-30. Lost to USC, 38-35. Beat UCLA in Pac-12 title game, 49-31. Beat Wisconsin in Rose Bowl, 45-38. With the exception of the Arizona game (where Oregon led at one point 35-3), all of those were close-ish games (UCLA trailed by 11 early in the 3rd quarter, but it really just seemed like Oregon was toying with them, like a cat and a mouse). Stanford was just a couple of plays away. Hell, Wisconsin and Russell Wilson were a bizarro fumble that just stopped on the grass from probably tying that Rose Bowl up and sending it to overtime (people seem to forget this).  By the way, if you haven't seen this yet, take a minute and a half and then come back.

So, if Tennessee scores at least 28, this game is probably hanging in the balance into the 3rd quarter, unless of course Oregon is up 50-3 before the Vols get six on the board.

The thing is, I don't think the Vols get 28. The overlooked factor for the Ducks in the first two games has been the play of the defense. They've allowed 13 points. Not per game. Total. Three against Nicholls State and 10 at Virginia. This despite the Oregon offense, once again dead last in D-1 in time of possession (about 20 minutes and 36 seconds a game) and the defense playing 86.5 snaps a game (third most).

This game, naturally, is the biggest test the Oregon D has faced so far. Tennessee has a nearly 50 point scoring average in their first two games and is averaging just about 415 yards per contest. (It should be noted that despite this seemingly outrageous number, it is still 65th in the country- in other words, just about smack dab average.) And for all this talk about the Vols having “found a quarterback” and all that, junior Justin Worley is averaging just 137 yards through the air, that's 108th in the country. Out of 125 teams. And that was against Austin Peay and Western Kentucky, you see where I'm going here.

Oregon's defense, meanwhile, despite the gaudy 13 points allowed, is still keeping to a Nick Aliotti “let them go everywhere but the end zone” defense. They've given up an average of 215 passing yards (59th), 105 rushing yards (28th) and 320 yards total yards in the two games so far. This is, nevertheless, still good for 37th spot in the country. It also means that Oregon will focus on stopping the run and daring Worley and the Vols to throw on them. And if Aliotti's defense is nothing else (and believe me, it is more than this), it is opportunistic. Oregon hasn't had a pick-six yet this season. Seems like that'll change tomorrow.

As for the Vols defense, well, they must try and contain an offense that is second in the country in yards per game, (664.5, Baylor leads with an astronomical 736.5). Despite most of the pundits still insisting that Oregon's offense is pass heavy, Oregon is second only to Navy in rushing yards average, with 425 for the first two games. Tennessee is 28th in the country in total defense, but they did allow 393 yards to Western Kentucky last week (outgaining the Vols by ten yards)- and that was with 5 UT interceptions on the day.

It will not be impossible for Tennessee to put up 28 points on Oregon, nor will it be impossible for the Vols to win the game if everything goes right.

But to finally answer the fellow, I think you get your ass kicked and you don't even come close to scoring 28 while the game is competitive. Burnt orange, indeed.

photo courtesy: katu.com