College Football Preview: Oregon v Tennessee as Ducks Fly South
With one game under their belt, Oregon heads to SEC country, to face the Tennessee Volunteers. In the first week, Oregon had success all throughout their game against New Mexico, winning 72-0. Tennessee also put up some big numbers in their week one matchup, winning 50-0 over Tennessee-Martin. This Saturday the Ducks and Vols will play under the lights in Neyland Stadium on national television.
While both teams looked impressive in their week one games, they both will be playing against a much higher level of talent come this Saturday. To help breakdown the game, lets take a look at how they stack up against each other.
Quarterback Matt Sims will lead Tennessee into this game and will only be making his third career start. Luckily for Sims, he will be doing so at home. Last week, Sims went 14-24 for 181 yards and a touchdown. Sims has a strong arm and can throw the deep ball but does struggle on throwing the shorter and intermediate routes.
The Ducks will also be starting a young quarterback in Darron Thomas, who will be making his second career start. In the home opener, Thomas threw for over 200 yards and two touchdowns. The downside for Thomas will be this game is on the road and will test his leadership skills. Thomas also possesses a strong arm and struggled on some of his intermediate throws.
Advantage: Oregon (1-0)
While Sims may be playing at home, the athleticism Thomas has is the difference maker in this matchup.
Getting most of the carries for Tennesse will be Taurean Poole and David Oku. Poole is a back that runs with strength but can also make defenders miss. Last week, he carried the ball 17 times for 110 yards and two scores. Oku is Tennessee's speed back. If you let him get into space, he can take it the distance. He carried the ball six times for 77 yards.
Oregon brings one of the top running games to Neyland Stadium are arguably the best one-two punch in the nation. LaMichael James will be making his 2010 debut this week after serving his one game suspension. Kenjon Barner took advantage of being the starter by scoring five touchdowns in the first half of the New Mexico game.
Advantage: Oregon (2-0)
There are not many teams in the nation that can matchup with the talent that Oregon has at running back. Even if James shows rust early, the Ducks can lean on Barner, who proved he can handle the load.
Tennessee's receiving core has taken some huge blows as they will be without seniors Gerald Jones and Denarius Moore who are nursing injuries. Filling in for them will be freshmen Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers.
Oregon has a healthy receiving core going into Saturday. This group is led by senior Jeff Maehl and D.J. Davis. The Ducks will also look for contributions from tight end David Paulson, who hauled in a 30 yard touchdown pass against New Mexico.
Advantage: Oregon (3-0)
With the amount of injuries that Tennessee is dealing with at this position, it would be hard to go against the Ducks. The young freshmen receivers will be an X-factor for Tennessee.
The youth is truly apparent on Tennessee's offensive line. Four players made their first start against Tennessee-Martin this past week. While there is talent at this position, it is young and raw talent that will only be making its second start. This could be a real issue for Tennessee if Oregon brings the blitz early and often.
Oregon returned its entire offensive line from last year and picked right up from where it left off last week. Against New Mexico, the offensive line opened up holes all day and allowed the Ducks to gain 369 yards on the ground. A seasoned offensive line will help on the road when it comes to communication and giving young quarterback, Darron Thomas, time to get rid of the ball.
Advantage: Oregon (4-0)
Again, not much argument can be made on this matchup. Well Tennessee has talent, it will take some time for them to come together as a unit.
The defensive line has a lot of depth for Tennessee. Chris Walker and Montori Hughes could both cause some issues for the Ducks and their running game. The defensive end position is extremely deep for the Vols while defensive tackle is a bit thinner but still strong.
The Ducks one weakness may be right here on the defensive line. The Ducks had to convert Dion Jordan over from the offensive side of the ball to help strengthen this position. Brandon Bair and Kenny Rowe are both guys that can get after the quarterback and help with the run. This is not a position of depth for the Ducks so depending on the time of position will depend on the success that Tennessee can have.
Advantage: Tennessee (Oregon 4-1)
Starting talent may show an advantage to Tennessee but I believe the overall depth that Tennessee has makes it a better unit.
The Tennessee linebacking core is made up of Nick Reveiz, LaMarcus Thompson, and Savion Frazier. All three played well in Tennessee's shutout and will need to step up there game against a run heavy Oregon team. This group has some speed but will also keep going until the whistle.
Oregon continues to show depth as they have returning starters at each linebacker position. The group is led by MLB Casey Matthews who has Josh Kaddu and Brian Paysinger on each side of him. All three are extremely fast and play the run and pass extremely well. Matthews was able to show this ability when he dropped back into coverage and picked off a pass last week.
Advantage: Oregon (Oregon 5-1)
The Ducks are too fast and too talented to not give them the edge at this position.
The youth of Tennessee continues when you look at their secondary. The Vols will be starting a converted wide receiver, Marsalis Teague, Eric Gordon, who is in his first year and Art Evans at corner. At the safety spots are Prentiss Waggner and Janzen Jackson.
The Oregon secondary lost two players to the NFL draft this year, T.J. Ward and Walter Thurmond III. Even with the losses, Oregon has a strong secondary. They were able to move Eddie Pleasant to Ward's rover safety position and Anthony Gildon filled in for Thurmond after he went down with a season ending knee injury in the fourth week last year. John Boyett and Talmadge Jackson III round out the group.
Advantage: Oregon (6-1 Oregon)
Again, Tennessee is really breaking in some new talent, while Oregon is starting a secondary that all had extensive playing time last year.
Tennessee's senior kicker, Daniel Lincoln, went 2/2 on field goals and 6/6 on extra points last week. Having a senior kicker is a big advantage for the Vols, knowing the can rely on his experience. Oku finds his way on the field for kick returns and again if given the space he can make people miss and use his speed to go the distance.
Oregon will have their kicker back this week when Rob Beard returns from a one game suspension. Tennessee may want to think twice when kicking on punts or kickoffs as they will be up against some game changers. Kenjon Barner will be returning kickoffs and punts but keep on eye out for Cliff Harris, who returned two punts for touchdowns this past week.
Advantage: Push (Oregon 6-1-1)
The advantage that Oregon may have in their returners, I believe are offset by the kicking game. Beard will be making his first start this year on the road and may cost the Ducks some points on stalled drives.
On paper, their is a huge difference between Oregon and Tennessee and that is the amount of returning starters the Ducks have compared to the new talent that the Vols are trying to break in.
The most interesting matchup may be the Ducks team versus the Neyland Stadium crowd. A key for Oregon will be an early score and lead to help quiet the crowd. While the offensive line for Oregon may be experienced and equipped to handle the noise, it will be interesting to see how Darron Thomas handles his first road start.
When you breakdown the positions and take a look at how the matchup, Oregon comes out ahead 6-1-1, with the push being on special teams. Even with that advantage, the crowd could be a huge x-factor for Tennessee.
Regardless of the matchups on paper, when the lights come on in Tennessee on Saturday night, you can throw them all out the window and see how things play out on the field.