One of the more intriguing non-conference match-ups for week 3 of the 2013 college football season features the Tennessee Volunteers (2-0) of the SEC travel to Autzen Stadium in Eugene, OR to take on the 2nd ranked Oregon Ducks (2-0) of the PAC-12 (3:30pm ET) . Tennessee routed Western Kentucky 52-20 last week in a game in which they were outgained 393-382 but forced 7 turnovers including 2 pick-sixes. In week 1 the Volunteers blanked FCS foe Austin Peay 45-0.
Tennessee is much improved on defense so far in 2013 after fielding a unit that was vulnerable to the big play last season, giving up 7 touchdowns of at least 70 yards and 14 touchdowns of at least 40 yards a season ago. The Volunteers rank 29th in total defense this season with 302 YPG allowed. They also face their first serious test of the season against an Oregon offense that ranks 2nd among FBS teams with 664.5 YPG of total offense and 2nd in rushing offense with and astounding 425 YPG. De’Anthony Thomas (252 yards rushing on 29 carries) returns along with quarterback Marcus Mariota (433 yards passing, 2 TDs, 235 yards rushing) to lead Oregon’s fast-paced spread offense to an average of 9.5 yards per play this year.
The Volunteers’ offense under new Head Coach Butch Jones, ranks 65th in total offense with 414.5 YPG and 23rd in rushing offense with 277.5 YPG and has adopted a much faster tempo of play that Jones brought over from Cincinnati. Running back Rajion Neal has run for 215 yards on 31 carries (6.93 YPC) this season to rank 31st in the nation in rushing. Their defense was certainly opportunistic last week in the game against Western Kentucky, they will need to force turnovers and keep Oregon off of the field in order to stay in this game.
Tennessee vs. Oregon Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Tennessee Volunteers +28
@Oregon Ducks -28
Over 72 (-110)
Under 72 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Tennessee vs. Oregon Pick
Tennessee hosted Oregon in 2010 and lost 48-13 after running up a 13-3 lead, this was the Vols’ last regular season loss in non-conference play. The total has gone over in 6 of the Ducks’ last 8 games and 4 of the Vols’ last 5 on the road.
Oregon is averaging 62.5 points per game after averaging 49.5 PPG last season, and is facing a Tennessee defense that has had a history of giving up big plays. Tennessee will not be able to keep up with the pace of Oregon’s attack despite their use of an up-tempo spread offense. Oregon is by far the most fast-paced team in the country, averaging 70 snaps per game and 20.5 minutes time of possession this year. As a point of comparison, Jones’ Cincinnati team average 15 plays per game less than Oregon last season despite holding the ball for only 53 seconds more per game on average.
Tennessee in their 3rd game running Jones’ system is not going to be prepared for the pace they will see on Saturday. This will lead to big plays in the run game from Thomas and Mariota as the Volunteers’ defenders struggle with limited substitution and fatigue. The Vols’ penchant for giving up big plays will come back to haunt them against a team that has an average length of touchdown length of 22.9 yards on their 17 scores this year. It is unlikely that two solid games against weak completion have resolved Tennessee’s defensive issues from last season, and the Vols’ will not be able to force turnovers at will the way they were against Western Kentucky last week. Oregon should be able to put light up the scoreboard against the Vols’, but with the line at 28 points that is just too many points to give a respectable team like Tennessee. The call here is that the Vols’ improved offense will put up a few points of their own and at least match Oregon’s pace of play early in the game. Take the over in this game as there should be no shortage of points in this one.