My pick: Vols 41, Wyoming 14

As a rule, Tennessee doesn't play particularly well in opening games. Most teams don't. First-game jitters and a lack of cohesion among new teammates tend to make for uneven debuts.

That's what I expect from Tennessee Saturday afternoon against Wyoming. I don't see the Cowboys stopping the Vols as often as I see the Vols stopping themselves.

Tennessee's offensive line is good enough that the Big Orange should be able to run the ball effectively against just about anyone. The problem is: How many times will young tailbacks Cedric Houston, Jabari Davis, Derrick Tinsley and Gerald Riggs, Jr., turn the wrong way or hit the wrong hole?

Tennessee has a star-quality quarterback in Casey Clausen. But, with Kelley Washington sidelined, how dependable will his targets be? Tight end Jason Witten and fullback Troy Fleming are first-rate pass-catchers but who'll stretch the Wyoming defense vertically? My guess is that Montrell Jones will have a breakout game. I see Tony Brown and C.J. Fayton making a couple of catches each. Ditto for Tinsley coming out of the backfield. If he's recovered from a shoulder injury, freshman speedster Jonathan Wade will make at least one play that fans will still be talking about on Monday.

Tennessee may have the best group of linebackers in college football, and I see more talent in the secondary than the Vols have assembled in a long time. On the down side, UT is breaking in four new starters in the line. The newcomers should do well against the run but you wonder how much pass rush they'll generate, especially with sack specialist Constantin Ritzmann out for the year with a torn ACL. Wyoming QB Casey Bramlet can cause Tennessee some problems if the Vols give him ample time to operate.

Ultimately, here's how I see the game shaping up:

Offensively, I think Tennessee's youthful receivers will make just enough mistakes to keep the passing game slightly out of sync. As a result, I wouldn't be surprised if Houston and Davis rush for roughly 100 yards each. I see Tinsley and Riggs contributing at least one eye-popping run each. Look for Alex Walls to boot a couple of field goals.

Defensively, I expect a lot of blitzing, with the linebackers registering at least four sacks, forcing a fumble and forcing an interception. Fans will be raving about Kevin Burnett's big-play ability on Sunday morning but Eddie Moore's steady play will prove just as valuable. I'll be surprised if Rashad Baker and Jabari Greer don't record an interception each. I suspect Wyoming will parlay one big pass into a score and tack on a TD against Vol reserves in the waning minutes.

Bottom line: Tennessee struggles out of the gate, dominates the second and third quarters, then calls off the dogs in the final period. SCORE: Tennessee 41, Wyoming 14.

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