Calling this a big game is technically true, but not in a "Tennessee absolutely must win this game" set. This is a chance, nothing more - if we're lucky enough to see a win, that would be The Year One Upset. Heck, with a close loss, we're still really happy.
Personally? Let;'s not lose the game by 70. And with that, I can freely admit that I'm pretty much in the tank for Oregon's offense the rest of the season; I want to win this game 84-83. Is that rational? Nope. Do I care? Hardly.
On to the Locks, then the Recaps, then the Keys (but Locks, Recaps, and Keys doesn't really roll off the tongue).
- Limit the need for an extra blocker. Tennessee's offensive line will be the best weapon they have in this game. Oregon will bring pressure from everywhere - they're rocking a 3-4 and will frequently bring 5, so accounting for potential blitzers is critical. Overloads will happen, but don't let them become overwhelming; if there's going to be any semblance of a passing game on Saturday, turning it into a numbers game by getting more routes out there is key.
- Big Dumb Will Muschamp Offense. I'm totally stealing that line from Spencer Hall, but it's not the worst idea here. I have somewhere between zero and less than zero confidence in Justin Worley's ability to win this game, and I also have between zero and less than zero confidence that Tennessee will have a speed advantage anywhere. As a result, doing things that limit Oregon's advantages here are big deal. Short side runs, taking ages between snaps to allow the offense to recover, and other things that look like Our Big Guys Beating The Tar Out of Their Big Guys are the order of the day.
- Don't worry about TOP. No, really. Tennessee's going to win TOP going away, and it doesn't matter in the slightest.
- Worry about killed Oregon drives. Tennessee isn't going to stop every play Oregon has, but they don't need to; they need to stop three in a row. I mean, Oregon's going to score. They're probably going to score a lot. However, cutting drives dead matters way more than winning each individual down.
- Keep it in front. I have no earthly idea how this defense will do this short of dropping the safeties to a depth of 40 yards and hoping, but if there's a way to do this, do it. I wouldn't rule out rocket-powered cleats, which someone can probably break in to the Nike research facility and take because I'm betting these things are in beta. (They run on Lane Kiffin's tears. They'll be deadly in November.)
- Don't get overwhelmed. Oregon at Autzen is an experience in sensory overstimulation; the colors are bright, the stadium is a combination of architectural accident and brilliance, noise is everywhere, and half the game will be played at breakneck speed. Figuring out a way to not let any of that overwhelm the Vols probably won't be the difference, but it will let them hang in long enough to have a chance. There won't be a chance to grind out a comeback in the 3rd quarter here; there are no off plays.
A Quick Look Back To Last Week's Picks:
Chris -- Week 2: 2-4. Season: 6-6
- Oregon (-22.5) at Virginia: This was a gift from Vegas. Just take it and thank them; it won't happen every day. 1-0.
- USC (15.5) vs. Washington State: Worst. Pick. Ever. What's on tap this week? Betting on Roger Federer? Bwahahahaha. 1-1.
- Florida/Miami UNDER 48. Florida can't score. And apparently Miami can't score either. So good pick. 2-1.
- Stanford (-25) vs. San Jose State: Never ever ever bet against SJSU. 2-2.
- Texas/BYU UNDER 57.5. BYU didn't really hate offense so much when they were gashing The Fighting Mack Brown Notes on the ground like Rafael Nadal gashed Djokovic in that fourth set. #13 baby! 2-3.
- Cincinnati (-7.5) at Illinois. Blame this one on Munchie. Hope he recovers quickly. 2-4.
KidB -- Week 2: 3-3. Season: 7-5
- Bowling Green-7 over Kent State: KidB knows MACtions. 1-0.
- Tulsa-10.5 over Colorado State: KidB is officially off the Tulsa bandwagon. 1-1.
- Arizona-10.5 over UNLV: This pick was so easy. UNLV is atrocious at football. I mean, if this pick were any easier, you'd have to rename it "Rafael Nadal over Roger Federer". 2-1.
- Indiana-12.5 over Navy: Perhaps KidB should have researched a bit more on Navy. 2-2.
- Tulane-6 over South Alabama: Unclear whether South Alabama was better than KidB thought, or Tulane was worse. Either way, this one didn't work out. 2-3.
- Duke-4 over Memphis State: Memphis State still sucks at football. Roger Federer is still ridiculously smug. Some things never change. 3-3.
I_S -- Week 2: 2-4. Season: 6-6.
- Oregon State -27 over Hawai'i: Perhaps Oregon State just isn't that good this year. 0-1.
- Indiana/Navy over 67.5. I_S's theory about Indiana being offensively competent and defensively incompetent was right on point. 1-1.
- Toledo +17 over Missouri. Nice pick. Everbody wins when MACtion covers. 2-1.
- Duke/Memphis over 54. I actively dislike Boyz 2 Men, except that I love that song "Water Runs Dry". 2-2.
- Tulane -6 over South Alabama. I_S and KidB need to rethink their South Alabama position. 2-3.
- Syracuse +16.5 over Northwestern. Syracuse was pretty good last year. Similarly, Roger Federer was pretty good at tennis five or six years ago. Things change.2-4
And Now The Moment of Truth: This Week's Picks
Chris Still Has No Idea What He's Doing:
Louisville (-14) at Kentucky - Louisville's won their first two games 49-7 and 44-7. That means they're winning on Saturday 39-7; it's just science, y'all. Bonus pro tip: Kentucky isn't good at the footballs. <---- sports take so hot it's blue
UCLA (+4) at Nebraska - this is entirely backing Nebraska's awful, awful defense and UCLA not being awful. Honestly, I was wondering if this line was a misprint.
WKU (-9) at South Alabama - Western Kentucky is better than they showed against us last week, and I'm thinking South Alabama's win is a sign that Tulane is also awful at football.
Washington (-9.5) at Illinois - I don't trust Illinois. Still.
Ole Miss (+3) at Texas - ESS EEE CEE TURMOIL. First team to 50 wins (hint: it'll be Ole Miss).
Iowa/Iowa State UNDER 48 - I hate fun. I also hate Greg Davis' offense like Sam Querrey hates the fourth round (two guys will get that reference and they'll find it hilarious, I swear).
KidB's Free Money Picks
WKU-9 over South Alabama: South Alabama burned me once, and yet i refuse to learn from that experience. I'm hopping back on the Petrino motorcycle....er...I mean bandwagon.
Washington U-9.5 over Illinois: In 2012, Washington struggled with injuries and peopled raised questions about the program's future. Similarly, Rafael Nadal was out with a knee injury 2012 and folks wondered whether he'd regain his top form. And we all know how that worked out, now don't we? Now I'm not saying that Washington U is Rafael Nadal. Or even a poor man's Rafael Nadal. But I'm also not saying Illinois is Novak Djokovic. Or even a homeless man's Novak Djokovic.
Georgia Tech-8.5 over Duke: Georgia Tech is my sleeper team this year. They're totally under the radar. They should consider renaming themselves Stan Wawrinka. And like Stan The Man, they'll get points with a power ground game.
Maryland-6.5 over UConn: UConn either lost to or struggled mightily with Liberty, which is apparently Jerry Falwell's school or something. Maryland, on the other hand, appears to actually be a decent squad.
Northern Illinois-28.5 over Idaho: Idaho might possibly be the worst team in the FBS not named Georgia State. At present, there is referendum on the table to rename the school Donald Young. Needless to say, this game really should not be close.
Rutgers -28 over Eastern Michigan: Rutgers put up tons of points against Fresno State, but also allowed Fresno State to score loads of points. Here, Rutgers will put up tons of points against Eastern Michigan, but they will allow very few points to be scored against them. And why? Well because Eastern Michigan is atrocious at football. Duh. Rutgers will win going away just like The Great Great Rafael Nadal.
I_S Will Go 6-0 Because This Titles Predict the Future or At Least Did Last Week:
Bowling Green/Indiana over 62.5. I think I'm just going to keep taking Indiana overs until they don't hit one.
Youngstown State +24 over Michigan State. Sparty didn't even cover this against YSU that year that they had an offense. This year they don't have one. I mean, they only scored 21 against a USF team so bad that they're tempting me to pick FAU this week.
Rutgers -28 over Eastern Michigan. I picked this game entirely independent of KidB, but for pretty much all the same reasons.
Georgia Tech -8.5 over Duke. Duke has a whole lot of trouble with the option. Well, most teams do, but I don't think Duke has held GT under 30 since Paul Johnson got there. If you like Duke here, take the over. If not, take the Jackets.
??? +20.5 over Notre Dame. Notre Dame has a tendency to overlook their bye weeks and fail to dominate. This bye week is particularly easy to overlook this season, especially coming right in between the two Michigan schools.
Oregon State +3 over Utah. I'm still not totally onboard with Utah, and I'm still not totally offboard with Oregon State. They have a tendency to screw around in non-conference and then wake up for conference play. Let's see if that tendency continues. Honestly, I really like WKU too, but I'm keeping them off the list as a kindness to my opponents, as the unanimous picks always lose.