Hey, remember the Oklahoma game? You know, that game against a highly-ranked opponent at their place where their line almost destroyed our quarterback and eventually won the game 34-10? And the game where we were saying things like, "We would have been seven points closer if not for that interception in the end zone and maybe another 14 closer if not for the pick six in the end zone?" And "Boo on that missed fumble call, too?" Yeah, that game. I'm beginning to think that this game could be our chance to do that one over.
Now I, like you, woke up Monday morning with the memory of the Tennessee-Florida and UT-UTC games still fresh in my mind. I feared for Justin Worley's safety. In assigning this game the lowest confidence score of the season, I said these exact words: "Will Just Worley survive? Will he have time to throw? Will we be able to run a play?"
But then I started drinking.
What exactly am I drinking? Coffee and courage, men. Coffee and courage.
The coffee's still sending steam into the crisp autumn air in my living room (it's a No Heat Pump October!), and the courage is coming from my review of the comps this morning. So let's take a look, shall we?
First, the bad news. Ole Miss will be the best passing defense we've faced all season. They're also the best passing offense we've faced all season. And they're not only the best scoring defense we've faced all season, they're nearly the best in the nation. Only Stanford is better.
But there is hope. This is all make-of-it-what-you-will kind of stuff, but consider this: Although the Ole Miss rushing defense is ranked 21st at 113.3 yards per game, it's bookended by Arkansas State and Utah State as the closest lower and higher comps. Yes, I hear you whispering "strength of schedule" in the back of the room. Fine. Let's move on.
The Ole Miss passing defense may be the best we've seen all season, but it's not really all that much better than Georgia's, and we put up 284 on Georgia. Also, the Rebs' rushing offense isn't frightening at all, getting only 146.5 per game. And as I said, their passing offense is really good, but you know what? Our passing defense is elite. Yes, I said elite. Eighth in the nation, allowing only 160.2 passing yards per game. Our scoring defense, too, is Top 25, allowing only 19.2 points per game, so it isn't unreasonable to expect that Ole Miss will have trouble getting any more than their average of 35 points per game. It could be less.
That brings us to the biggest question mark. How many points can we score? It gets really weird here. We're not very good at putting points on the board, unfortunately, and Ole Miss is exceptional at keeping opponents from scoring. Initially, this had me thinking that we'd be lucky to put up three field goals again this week like we did against Florida. But the next closest comp to the Ole Miss scoring defense is Georgia, and they're not very far behind at 13th in the nation and 18 points per game. And yet . . . we scored 32 against them. That had me shaking my head just like you are right now, so I went to the next comp, which was Arkansas State at 18th in the nation and 20.5 points per game. And we got 34 against them.
Is it really all that unreasonable to think that we could score 28-31 points this weekend? A resounding yes, if you can't erase from your mind the Gators game and that 4th-and-28 against FCS opponent UTC. Not so much if you remember 38, 34, and 32 against Utah State, Arkansas State, and a really good Georgia team. And if you're still whispering "strength of schedule" with respect to the State schools and "Georgia is flaky," then, well, I'll counter with all of those missed opportunities against Oklahoma where we scored only ten but gave away 17-21 all the while getting mauled behind our own line of scrimmage.
So that's why I think this game could very well be a do-over of the Oklahoma game.
Maybe the book's out on us and teams know all they have to do is pressure the quarterback, tackle the RBs in the backfield, and cheat up their secondary to stop the only thing we can really do on offense, which is the short passing game. If so, the game's going to be a lot like the Oklahoma score, 34-10. Maybe worse.
But maybe we instead see a lot of Jalen Hurd taking direct snaps this week after resting him last week (this time without the false starts, please) . Maybe we see a lot of quick double moves on cheating DBs and a deep pass or two that actually connect. If the Vols can just manage an average run game and somehow throw downfield once or twice, the game could be less like the Oklahoma score we saw and more like the Oklahoma score we wanted, a score that would give us a chance to win late in the game.
Ole Miss 34, Tennessee 10. Or Ole Miss 34, Tennessee 28.
Coffee and courage, gents.
|Comps||Result against Comps||Guess|
|Closest Lower||Closest Higher||Closest Lower||Closest Higher|
|Tennessee rushing offense vs. Ole Miss rushing defense||109||109.7||21||113.3||Arkansas St.||Utah St.||Arkansas St.||Utah St.||110|
|Tennessee passing offense vs. Ole Miss passing defense||61||237.8||21||193.8||Georgia||None||Georgia||None||240|
|Tennessee rushing defense vs. Ole Miss rushing offense||67||156.2||85||146.5||Utah St.||Florida||Utah St.||Florida||130|
|Tennessee passing defense vs. Ole Miss passing offense||8||160.2||26||295.2||Oklahoma||None||Oklahoma||None||280|
|Tennessee scoring offense vs. Ole Miss scoring defense||79||28||2||11.8||Georgia/Ark. St.||None||Georgia/Ark. St.||None||28|
|Tennessee scoring defense vs. Ole Miss scoring offense||19||19.2||32||35.7||Florida||Oklahoma||Florida||Oklahoma||34|