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November 13, 2009

The Cheat Sheet

There is a lot of talk about this being the Ed Orgeron bowl as the former Ole Miss head coach returns to Oxford for the first time since being fired there following the 2007 season. But Orgeron has made it clear that this game is not about him at all. The reality is that this is a huge game for both the Rebels and the Vols in terms of potential bowl opportunities. Tennessee is looking for its first road win and is looking to keep its goal of an unbeaten November intact. What's key for the Vols today? Find out with our weekly cheat sheet.

1. Find Dexter McCluster - McCluster should be fresh after getting last week off. And you can bet that Ole Miss wants to get the ball in his hands. Against Arkansas in a loss, McCluster had 260 yards of offense and it doesn't take past pre-game warm-ups to learn that the Florida native is the fastest guy on the field. Tennessee must find and contain McCluster. The Vols defense has done a good job all year in limiting big plays in the run game. They will need to be at their best on Saturday. And they will have to handle McCluster in the pass game. Ole Miss will line him up all over the place and Tennessee must find him.

2. Win first down - It's a goal every week for the Vol offense and this week it is imperative because of Ole Miss' pass rush, though the Vols do gain some relief with the absence of Rebels rusher Greg Hardy. The Rebels are loaded along the defensive front and can certainly cause plenty of problems rushing the quarterback. Ole Miss is second in the SEC in sacks with 25, one shy of Alabama's league-leading 26. To help slow down the pass rush Tennessee needs to do two things. One, the Vols have to stay out of third and long situations and they have to be able to run the ball to make play-action effective.

On the defensive side, Tennessee needs to win first down and get the Rebels in third-and-long. Ole Miss has only given up 12 sacks, but pressuring quarterback Jevan Snead is key for Monte Kiffin's defense.

3. Rattle Snead - Even though he has only been sacked 12 times, Snead has thrown a league-high 13 interceptions. The Rebel offensive front as struggled to protect their signalcaller and he has gotten rattled under the pressure throwing interceptions. Tennessee only has seven interceptions on the year, but when something has gone wrong for Snead it has usually turned into two things and three and on and on. When Snead has not gotten rattled he has riddled defenses. It's important that Tennessee get to Snead early and force him to make an early mistake, not allowing him to get into rhythm.

4. Be opportunistic - The last two games, Tennessee has only one turnover, which was on special teams, and has forced seven turnovers. They have turned those seven into 45 points. Ole Miss is minus-two in the turnover margin meaning they have more giveaways than takeaways. Tennessee has also been very, very good when it comes to taking advantage of not just turnovers. The Vols have been perfect in taking advantage of a short field. The Vol offense has gotten the ball on the opponents' side of the 50-yard line 18 times this season and have 15 touchdowns and three field goals in those 18 opportunities.

Tennessee must continue its opportunistic ways if it is going to win a very important game in Oxford.


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