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September 14, 2013For the first time, Butch Jones takes his team on the road in what is a huge challenge as the Vols find themselves on the west coast and a nearly 4 touchdown underdog against 2nd ranked Oregon.
Here are four keys for today in what we call The Cheat Sheet.
1. 60 minute fight - Head coach Butch Jones said he learned more about his team last week as the Vols managed adversity dealing with mistakes and offensive struggles. How much they can handle adversity will be put to the ultimate test this weekend at Oregon. As Jones noted this week, the Ducks are going to make plays. They will make big plays and there will be moments where the Vols will have a chance to mail it in. The question is can they prevent old habits from showing up. Can the Vols have Jones' "snap and clear" mentality and can they make it a four quarter fight? The answer is they must be able to do that.
2. Win the turnover battle - We all saw last week what it could do to a game. Now no one expects Oregon to turn it over seven times, but turnovers are key to slowing down the Ducks' attack. Two games that Vols fans have looked at this week in beating the Ducks was the national title game against Auburn and Boise State's upset win. In Boise's win, the Ducks turned it over 2 times, gave up a safety and turned the ball over on downs. An interception and the turnover on downs both came in Boise territory. Against Auburn, the Ducks had a safety, they threw an interception at the Auburn 14 yard line and they were stopped on 4th down at the one yard line. Tennessee must win the turnover battle.
3. Tackle in space - Oregon plays a lot of backyard football. They want to put their playmakers in space and try to make one on one plays. The Vol defense must swarm to the ball and get multiple players rallying to the ball. But the truth is that there are going to be a lot of snaps where a Vol defender has a Duck in the open field and they have to make that tackle or hold him up till help arrives. It can be the difference in a 5-10 yard gain and a 70 yard touchdown.
4. Get off the field/Stay on the field - The fewer chances you give Oregon's offense the better your chances obviously. So it's imperative that the Vol defense win on third down particularly third and long. In the first half last week, Western Kentucky was 6 of 9 on third down conversions with an average yardage to make of 8 yards or more. In the second half, the Hilltoppers were just 2 of 6 on third downs. Conversely, the Vol offense were 0 for 5 in the first half and 4 for 5 in the second half. In the Auburn game for the national title, Auburn was 9 of 17 on third down and Oregon was 5 of 15 of third down. Tennessee must win third down on both sides of the ball.