It's true (and good news) that the Vols' game against Oklahoma this year is all upside and no downside. In keeping with our series on why things should finally start going Tennessee's way this season, here are three reasons to expect upside on September 12.
1. Mitigation of the quarterback-killing pass rush. The main thing that did the Vols in last year against the Sooners? An experienced pass rush terrorizing an inexperienced offensive line and an immobile quarterback. Tennessee's offensive line had a total of six starts to its collective name to begin the season last year. That was really, really bad news in 2014 but better news this year because all of those guys were thrown into the fire and have earned a season's worth of valuable experience against a number of elite front sevens. They may still be a bit of a weak link on the team, but they'll be better. Add to that that Josh Dobbs is no sitting duck at quarterback and that a backfield that could at times feature Dobbs, Jalen Hurd, and Alvin Kamara, and we have run options in three directions to go along with another option to pass. Expect Oklahoma's defensive front seven to still be a great challenge, but don't expect the absolute decimation we saw last year.
2. The Sooners' offensive system will be brand spanking new. Oklahoma wasn't bad on offense last year, but that didn't stop Bob Stoops from replacing his two offensive coordinators. Taking the reins this season is Lincoln Riley, a guy who runs an offense patterned after Hal Mumme and Mike Leach. Tennessee's defense is in pretty good shape, particularly against the pass. The secondary's solid, and a really good defensive line looks to take the next step into elite status. Not only will the Sooners still be getting used to the buttons and levers in a new offensive scheme, the Vols' pass defense is built to present timing challenges to a system that relies on it.
3. Goooood Ohhhld Rocky Top! Woo! This will be the first true home game for the Vols in 2015. The first for a team that many expect to be good. And it's one thing to expect to be good, but it's an entirely different thing to expect to be good after many years of being bad. All food tastes better when you're hungry, right? Expect Neyland to be absolutely rocking, and if home field matters -- and it does -- this could be a very special afternoon.