Favorable matchups

With an eye toward the future, some Tennessee fans would like to see Jonathan Crompton start at quarterback against Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl.

Won't happen, said coach Phillip Fulmer.

Shouldn't happen, said offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe.

``We're going in with the same plan we've always had,'' Cutcliffe said. ``Erik Ainge is the starting quarterback and he gives us the best chance to play great and we're going in trying to play great.''

Cutcliffe said Wisconsin has a good defense.

``I am impressed with their quickness,'' Cutcliffe said. ``They're much quicker than some Big Ten teams I've seen in the past.''

Maybe so, but Wisconsin – like Tennessee – has been inconsistent on defense. The Badgers held Michigan to 47 rushing yards, Iowa to 59 and Northern Illinois to minus-13. But Michigan, State, Ohio State, Penn State and Illinois each rushed for over 200 yards. And five teams had over 250 passing yards, including 352 by Minnesota in the regular season finale.

In studying film of Wisconsin, Cutcliffe said: ``I'm already looking at some matchups, things we think we can do well.''

That could be a hint the Vols will throw a lot of passes. If so, Ainge will be the trigger man.

``We probably have too much time on our hands in preparation for bowl games,'' Cutcliffe said. ``Who knows? I might put Trooper Taylor in at quarterback and see how it goes. We're going to have a little fun, that's for sure.''


Cutcliffe was pleased with the results of running the no-huddle this season.

``Absolutely an A,'' was Cutcliffe's grade.

He wasn't so sure entering the season. He had concerns coming out of the spring and after August drills.

``I had no idea exactly what it would be like when we went into California,'' Cutcliffe said. ``It helped us at Cal. If we'd taken care of business, I think we'd have scored 60 points on Cal.''

Tennessee had a costly fumble at Cal, allowed a punt return for a touchdown and failed on a couple of short yardage conversion attempts. Still, the offense scored 31 points and had 382 yards.

``I felt through the no-huddle, we could score every time we had the ball,'' Cutcliffe said. ``I felt absolutely great.

``What it showed me as a coach and I think it showed our players, it's not the scheme. It still goes back to protecting the ball, to making the plays, to avoiding penalties. It's executing and paying attention to detail.

``Yes, the scheme helps. Yes, the no-huddle helped. But we've got to coach the little things.''

Cutcliffe felt the no-huddle allowed UT to call the right play about 85 percent of the time. UT also limited its turnovers – committing just 17 on the season (12 on interceptions).

That's one reason Cutcliffe was disappointed and upset in the Kentucky and LSU games. The Vols threw five interceptions in those two games.

``It's something we don't accept, we're not going to accept and we're not going to do in the bowl game,'' Cutcliffe said.

The two fourth-quarter interceptions Erik Ainge threw against LSU still sting.

``I'd have bet my house we were going to win that game in Atlanta,'' Cutcliffe said. ``That's why the emotions were so tough.''

Still, Cutcliffe was complimentary of UT.

``I've never been around a team that was more fun overall to coach, that learned how to work like they learned how to work in practice,'' Cutcliffe said.

``It has been an unusual team, certainly with some really high ups and some really tough lows.''


Wisconsin has built its program into a consistent power.

That term is relative, but 40 wins in four years is impressive. And the Badgers have won at least nine games four years in a row for the first time in school history. Only seven other teams have done that over the past four years.

And Wisconsin is one of only 11 teams with 21 wins over the past two years. And the Badgers are one of three programs with an active streak of four consecutive January bowl games.

Wisconsin has also been reliable under two-year coach Bret Bielema. The Badgers are 14-0 when scoring at least 20 points and 18-0 when taking a lead into the fourth quarter.

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