Devil's Advocate

Welcome to Devil's Advocate — Inside Tennessee's version of punch/counter punch — where each week analysts Randy Moore and Jeffery Stewart choose their sideline and make their cases for our readers' regular amusement and occasional edification.



Cal's Justin Forsett burned Tennessee for 156 rushing yards, averaging 6.0 per carry, but he's no Darren McFadden.

Florida's Percy Harvin burned the Vols for 75 yards on just nine attempts, an average of 8.3 yards per carry, but he's no Darren McFadden.

Arkansas State's Reggie Arnold burned Tennessee for 130 rushing yards, averaging 8.1 yards per attempt, but he's no Darren McFadden.

Mississippi State's Anthony Dixon burned the Vols for 108 yards, averaging 4.1 per carry, but he's no Darren McFadden.

Alabama's Terry Grant burned the Big Orange for 104 yards, averaging 4.0 per rush, but he's no Darren McFadden.

South Carolina's Cory Boyd burned Tennessee for 160 yards, averaging 8.0 per carry, but he's no Darren McFadden.

Louisiana-Lafayette's Tyrell Fenroy burned the Vols for 113 yards, averaging 8.1 per attempt, but he's no Darren McFadden.

If Tennessee couldn't stop Forsett, Harvin, Arnold, etc., you wonder: How will the Vols stop McFadden? Answer: They won't. He gashed them for 181 yards last year and he has gotten better this year, while the Vol defense has gotten worse.

Last week McFadden rushed for 321 yards against a South Carolina defense that limited Tennessee's entire team to 101 rushing yards just one week earlier. Given how poorly the Vols' run defense has been, McFadden may sprain an ankle getting off the team bus in his haste to get inside Neyland Stadium Saturday afternoon. Even if that happens, though, his backup is better than anyone else UT has faced this fall.

Felix Jones gashed the Gamecocks for 163 yards last week, including 119 yards on four first-quarter carries. Like his more celebrated teammate, he is projected as a first-round NFL Draft pick.

Should Tennessee sell out in order to stop McFadden and Jones, Casey Dick will lob the ball to 6-6, 220-pound wide receiver Marcus Monk, who torched Tennessee for 137 receiving yards and two TDs on eight catches last fall.



Put the slide rule to this game and it's hard to envision a scenario in which Tennessee stops Arkansas' lethal ground attack led by Heisman Trophy hopeful Darren McFadden and his uber understudy and future fellow NFL first round draft choice Felix "The Cat" Jones.

That's a tall order for any amateur defense, especially one that is ranked No. 80 nationally and No. 11 in the SEC. So what chance do the Vols have of stopping McFadden and Jones?

The painful truth is Tennessee probably can't shut down the galloping ground Hogs. To accomplish that arduous endeavor the Vols need a pair of stud run-stuffers at the tackle positions. Short of that they have to settle for slowing down Arkansas' version of the pony express with a combination of well conceived schemes and sound defensive principles.

The key for Tennessee is first down and the object is to hold Arkansas to three yards or less, forcing difficult down-and-distance situations for a team that is suspect passing the football (ranked No. 11 in the SEC).

The Vols can accomplish this by crowding the box, maintaining good gap control, turning everything outside and allowing their speed to work in their favor. An ample share of stunts, slants, run blitzes and overloads to wide side of the field can also be employed to influence the flow of the play and disrupt timing.

Many will, undoubtedly, theorize that you have to take a conservative approach to such an explosive running game, but that is a slow death by a thousand cuts. It means keeping a depth depleted defense on the field and UT's potent offense on the sidelines. It's better to take risks of the occasional long run in exchange for more three and outs.

Bottom line: the Vols need to stack against the run first with the aim of forcing the pass. With enough defenders close to the line of scrimmage they can also force Casey Dick to move in the pocket. In such a mode he becomes indecisive and wild high.

True, Arkansas' air attack got a boost from the return of Marcus Monk, but it's been by way of his presence more than his production. He still doesn't appear to be near 100 percent and has yet to find his timing with Dick. The Vols have an advantage over most defenses with a pair of big, athletic cornerbacks — Brent Vinson and DeAngelo Willingham — who can match up with Monk in press coverage. Otherwise, the Razorbacks lack talent among its pass-catching corps.

Just as Tennessee hasn't seen a running back as good as Darren McFadden, Arkansas hasn't seen a quarterback as accurate as Erik Ainge. The good QBs they have faced — John Parker Wilson and Andre Woodson — enjoyed big games against the Hogs as well as big victories. Last week exiled signal caller Jeff Blake of South Carolina was reinstated to his starting role and led an anemic air attack to 27 points in Fayetteville. The Vols don't have to stop Arkansas' ground game as much as they need to slow it down and outscore it.

Tennessee's offensive balance presents as many problems as Arkansas' one-dimensional, albeit, highly explosive run attack. The Vols have the home field advantage and motivation from losing last year's meeting between these teams. Both Auburn and Alabama avenged losses to Arkansas this earlier season. Advantage: Tennessee. Little D-II sister UT-Chattanooga took the Hogs to the limit before losing in Little Rock. Advantage: UT-Knoxville.

Coming into this game after playing Louisiana-Lafayette is just as good, if not better, than an open date. Conversely, Arkansas is entering this contest on the heels of a very physical game against a South Carolina team trying to avoid three consecutive conference losses. Advantage: Tennessee.

The Vols are still playing for an SEC title while the Hogs are playing for a better bowl game. Advantage: Tennessee.

Since SEC expansion in 1992, the Razorbacks have only won once in Knoxville and that was 15 years ago when Johnny Majors was head coach and Bush 41 was president. Game, set and match: Tennessee.

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