Last week, both No. 23 Tennessee and No. 19 Oklahoma had an easier out of conference game to kickoff the season. The Sooners took care of Akron, 41-3, and the Vols battled it out with Bowling Green, 59-30. However, the real early test for both teams happens this weekend when they meet at Neyland Stadium. Oklahoma opened up as a one point favorite but this game could go either way. Here are three keys to victory for the Vols on Saturday:
Keys for Tennessee
1. Fix secondary issues: Bowling Green has a really good air attack led by quarterback Matt Johnson. He should be one of the best, if not the best, quarterbacks in the MAC conference. But that doesn’t mean he should throw for 424 yards and two touchdowns. Emmanuel Moseley, Malik Foreman and Evan Berry all struggled and were beat often by the Falcons’ wide receivers. Oklahoma has a pair of talented receivers in Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal who could cause a ton of problems for UT’s secondary. Hopefully for the Vols, with defensive backs coach Willie Martinez coming back from his one game suspension and Todd Kelly Jr. returning to 100 percent, the secondary will perform better this week.
2. Establish a pass rush: Last Saturday, Tennessee’s defense struggled all night to put pressure on Johnson. Part of the reason he had a good game was because the secondary struggled, but there also was no pressure at all in the backfield. The defensive line had only one sack and wasn’t able to get to Johnson on deep throws. The linebackers had a decent night and were able to get to Johnson at times, but they played in the nickel package for the most part so they weren’t much of a factor. In Oklahoma’s blowout of Akron, quarterback Baker Mayfield was 23-33 and had 388 passing yards. If Tennessee’s defensive front doesn’t get a push, Mayfield could have another big night.
3. Consistency all around: Josh Dobbs looks good so far. He went 15-22 for 205 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions against Bowling Green. However, there were a couple of passes that he usually makes but missed on in week one. In the same regard, the wide receivers had a solid night, but there was plenty to be desired. Dobbs hit Malone in stride at one point in the game only to find an incompletion because of a drop. On special teams, kicker Aaron Medley struggled. He was 1-3 on field goals, missing one from 49 yards out and then shanking another from 29 yards. Also, he booted a kickoff out of bounds. Since it wasn’t a close game, that was alright.
However, if that happens against Oklahoma, it could be a long night for the Vols.
Featured image courtesy of creativecommons.org
Edited by Cody McClure
Sports writer for the Tennessee journalist and sophomore Business Analytics Major at UTK. Somehow finds time to balance writing for TNJN and being in the Pride of the Southland Marching Band. Follow him on Twitter @bwoody_72