Here in a few hundred words, we're going to give you Tennessee's five keys to victory this weekend against upstart, offensive-minded Cincinnati. Then, we'll take a glimpse around the country to give you a primer of what to expect from the biggest games of the weekend.
But first, let's take a quick peek back at last week's locks to see how you'd have done if you listened to my predictions and went to Vegas with a pile of money...
A QUICK LOOK BACK
The best-case scenario happens for the country when UGA takes out Boise State and LSU beats Oregon this weekend. Why is this the best-case? UGA is going to expose the Broncos for the big-conference fraud they are and still wind up just mediocre in the SEC. LSU is going to flash its mad talent against the Ducks, knocking them from the BCS conversation early and clearing the way for the Vols to upset the No. 1 (or No. 2) team in the country in Knoxville in October [speaking of picking with your heart...] Um yeah, that first part wasn't a good start. I should have been smarter than that and gone against Mark Richt. But LSU made me 1 for 2.
No matter what he says publicly, we'll all know by the middle of Saturday afternoon how Nick Saban REALLY felt about his playing days at Kent State. OK, so this was an easy one. Bama rolled. But at least the Tide threw four picks.
Connor Shaw is not an upgrade over the shaky Stephen Garcia just yet, and Garcia will play a lot against ECU and start by week 3 and possibly next week. Didn't take long for Steve Spurrier to pull the plug on the sophomore, did it? Garcia brought the Cocks back and sent them on a roll.
Les Miles will find out some time Sunday that it's much tougher to digest synthetic turf than it is actual grass. We don't have access to Les' bathroom, so we'll call this a push.
- Florida will have a difficult time fitting its speed-first personnel and undersized offensive linemen into a pro-style offense, and we'll see the first signs of that against Florida Atlantic, regardless of the final score [which won't be close]. Eh, the Gators looked good offensively despite three turnovers in winning 41-3, so I kinda missed this one.
A clash of cultures will be catastrophic when a slew of Mormons invade The Grove this weekend and encounter many given to strong drink. Don't be surprised if the Mississippi River begins flowing backward from the gravity of this meeting. Oh, and BYU wins going away. BYU won, but they didn't win going away.
Miami will prove that as much as Al Golden tries to keep all the off-the-field stuff off the field, these are still 18-22 year old kids, and they'll be affected. Maryland won and got some style points. Miami did not play poised.
The Houston-UCLA game won't be competitive, and Case Keenum will start his Heisman campaign early. Keenum threw for 310 yards, but the Bruins came back to make it a respectable 38-34 loss.
Though Southern Cal will beat Minnesota, the Gophers and new coach Jerry Kill will keep it close -- like single-digits close. Even so, USC will get one win closer to bowl eligi-- BAWAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Southern Cal won, but the score was a scant 19-14.
South Florida is going to upset Notre Dame in Skip Holtz's return to South Bend, causing Lou to drown himself in saliva -- while severely injuring Mark May -- in the ESPN studios. They talked about it being a huge upset, but we had this one figured out early, didn't we?
- I will get yelled at AT LEAST five times for not having any idea where my 1-year-old son is because I'll be "supposed to be" watching him, and I'll be glued to the television instead. I didn't get yelled at, but there were plenty of exasperated looks.
As for the five keys: Score first? Check. Get Bray Going? Check. Emphasize run defense? Check. Win at the point of attack? A resounding "NO" but it didn't matter. Develop playmakers? Check. Rogers and Hunter were stellar, and freshman Marlin Lane had a pair of touchdowns. Still need more. UT accomplished four of five in a 42-16 win.
- All in all, pretty stellar for me. Now, onto this week...
FIVE KEYS FOR UT
Gap Control! Gap Control! Gap Control! I have a feeling this is going to be another of those games where a quick-strike offense doesn't allow the Vols to get to the quarterback. So, UT has to get "wins" on defense in other ways. With a team that spreads you out like Cincy does and takes advantage of the horizontal passing game, the Vols must ALWAYS stay in position. That means the young linebackers have to stay at home, and UT simply cannot lose contain on the edge like they did at times against Montana or Zach Collaros and Isaiah Pead will kill them. With the field opened up, Pead can make a LB taking a bad angle miss and be off to the races. Huge test for the youngsters.
Win the Turnover Battle. The Bearcats are going to score some points, but so are the Vols. If this turns into a shootout, the team that is able to produce a couple of unanswered scores has the upper hand. UT has to be opportunistic, but it's going to be tough being overly aggressive against a team that can exploit you in the open field. Hopefully Collaros will make some mistakes. In his last two games against FBS opponents, he has thrown seven interceptions.
- Get in the Zone. As Chris pointed out in his Xs and Os column, Cincinnati runs a lot of zone. Jim Chaney should be able to pick apart Cover 3 and 4, and that's going to be up to Bray to take advantage. Bigtime grow-up game for UT's signal-caller. If Rogers and Hunter are covered deep, others need to step up to take the considerable chunks of yardage the Bearcats normally allow.
Run for more than 150 yards. Personally, I don't want to get in a shootout. That's where a bunch of kids make mistakes and experience wins out. Cincinnati is definitely more experienced. The Vols have the quick-strike ability we all know, but I want to see UT grind out some clock on the ground and frustrate Cincy. The Bearcats have a deep, experienced defensive line, but it's not necessarily a great one. The Vols need to erase the bad feelings from week one and run for a "pretty" 150 yards-plus. I know last week we had 128, but it was an ugly 128. You know the difference.
- Flip the Field. I don't care who punts -- Matt Darr or Michael Palardy -- he needs to punt better than last week. Field position is going to be crucial in a game against an offensively-powerful unit. We certainly don't need to be shortening the field for the 'Cats. Back them up and let the defense work. Basically, this bullet should be for all the special teams. It'd be nice to see Palardy to boot his kickoffs inside the 5 and for the Vols to make a couple of field goals [if the drives come to that, of course...] UT just needs a better all-around effort on special teams.
FINALLY, HERE ARE THIS WEEK'S 10 LOCKS
- That seat Mark Richt is sitting on? It'll be bright red and steaming after this week.
- All the white-out in the world won't be able to erase what Alabama is going to do in Happy Valley. Doesn't matter how hostile that environment is, it won't will the Nittany Lions to a win.
- If you're not taking Iowa only favored by 6.5 over Iowa State, you're missing a stone-cold opportunity. This Iowa team is going to battle with Wiscy for the Big T1en2.
- This entire week, I've had to hear Auburn fans talk about how good a season Utah State is going to have. This week starts a reality check on the Plains. There's just too much youth for this to be a very good team this year, but AU has a bright future.
- Texas is going to struggle with BYU, but I don't think Jake Heaps and his crew have enough offense to pull an upset.
- If a game is played in the Big House at night and nobody cares, does it make a blip on the college football radar? I'm so sick of having to hear about Notre Dame week after week after week no matter how bad they are. But they're still going to win in Ann Arbor.
- Maybe Hawaii doesn't belong in the Pac 12. But the Warriors will be 2-0 in that conference after this weekend's upset win over 6-point favorite Washington.
- Kentucky barely survived against Western Kentucky last week, but the Cats won't have as much trouble against Central Michigan. Maybe they've picked up a little inspiration from watching Randall Cobb's breakout performance against the Saints on Thursday.
- Mizzou is ranked 21st in the country. Arizona State is unranked. And favored over the Tigers by 7.5 points. I don't trust that at all. Take Gary Pinkel.
- TCU is only a 1.5 point favorite over Air Force this week, and the Falcons are all of a sudden a trendy upset pick? I don't get it. Baylor caught lightning in a bottle last Friday night. That doesn't mean Tank Carden and the boys got a lot worse. Horny Toads win this one easily.