In just their third game of the season, Tennessee football will head to Norman, Okla. in 2014.
Not only will the Vols be facing the 2013 Big 12 runner-ups on the road, but also what Sporting News has ranked as their preseason No. 1 team in the nation to begin 2014.
The Sooners ended 2013 with a bang by routing the defending champions in the Alabama Crimson Tide 45-31 in the Sugar Bowl. Although they lost two games last season and went 11-2, 7-2 in conference play, the Sooners had to regather themselves late in the season after a 41-12 blowout suffered to Baylor.
The Sooners began the season with redshirt-freshman Trevor Knight as their starting quarterback, but the job was later given to Blake Bell about a quarter-of-a-way through the season. However, as the offense continued to see its struggles, after the debacle against Baylor the job was handed back to Knight.
While he continued to have his struggles, he really flourished in the Sooners’ surprising Sugar Bowl victory with a record-setting 348-yard passing performance accompanied by four touchdowns to go with it.
Tennessee’s defense will have to improve greatly, and quickly, at defending against a dual-threat quarterback in 2014, because in two of their first three games that’s exactly what they are going to encounter.
Although a great passer, Knight has the ability to torture defenses with his legs as well. In eight games last season he had two 100-plus-yard rushing performances, and finished the season with 445 total rushing yards.
On the other side of the ball, the Sooners defense finished 2013 as the 20th best overall defense. While that sounds good on paper, Oklahoma still gave up quite a bit of yards a season ago (average of 350 yards), but still managed to only surrender 22 points-per-game. If the Vols can find a way to move the ball against the Sooners, the task at hand for the offense will be to improve upon what they couldn’t do a season ago, finish drives.
Early Prediction: Although Trevor Knight has his inconsistencies, the fact that he can successfully will the offense down the field with both his arm and his legs presents a problem for the Vols. In the past they have struggled greatly with dual-threat quarterbacks. If the defense can’t contain Knight, the game will get ugly quick for the team in orange and white.
While things will have to go a certain way for the Vols to pull the upset, it’s not entirely out of the question they can’t pull out a huge victory on the road. However, despite a spirited start, the Vols will drop their first game of the season on the road to the Sooners, 34-17.
The Vols and Sooners will kickoff on Saturday, Sept. 13 on either ABC, ESPN, or ESPN2.
For more Tennessee football news, click here.