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 sides and make their cases for our readers' regular amusement and occasional edification.



The Tennessee Vols face the ultimate no-win situation this Saturday. Even if they pile up 600 yards of total offense and 50 points against UAB, many fans will grumble: "So what? The Blazers allowed an average of 577.5 yards and 47 points in Games 1 and 2 against Tulsa and Florida Atlantic, so Tennessee did nothing special."

And God forbid if the Vols produce, say, 400 yards and 38 points. That would be cause for celebration against most opponents. Against the defensively challenged Blazers, however, anything less than 700 yards and 60 points will be viewed as failure.

How would you like to face that kind of pressure? Better still, how would you like to face that kind of pressure coming off a Game 1 showing so weak that your own fans already are questioning the new coordinator and the new quarterback?

Jonathan Crompton is a far better quarterback than his Game 1 numbers (19 of 41, 189 yards) suggest. Dave Clawson is a far better offensive coordinator than his Game 1 numbers (17 offensive points in four quarters and one overtime period) suggest. But they'll be playing to an audience this weekend that will expect a completion on every pass and a touchdown on every possession.

Making matters worse is this: UAB gets the ball on every other possession, and the Blazers may keep it for a while. Joe Webb is one of the better quarterbacks the Vols will face this fall. He averages 247.5 passing yards per game and has a sterling 121.1 passer-efficiency rating, compared to Crompton's 80.19.

Should Webb manage to sustain a few 10-play drives, the Blazers will limit Tennessee's possessions and its scoring opportunities. If the Vols have less than 28 points at the half and less than 42 entering the fourth quarter, they probably will hear some boos.

I wouldn't want to be Crompton this Saturday and I certainly wouldn't want to be Clawson. The natives are restless, and even a strong performance may not be enough to appease them. That kind of pressure could affect the way Clawson calls the game and the way Crompton manages the game.

And, if that happens, this game might not be anywhere near the cakewalk most Big Orange fans are anticipating.



If you are familiar with the proverb — "a hot dog looks as good to a starving man as a steak" — you won't have to wonder if Tennessee will be ready to eat, or rather compete against UAB on Saturday.

There will be no hangover from the upset defeat to UCLA two weeks ago in the season opener. There will be no flash forwards to formidable Florida standing in the on deck circle. No turbo lag from a too early open week.

The sheer preponderance of superior personnel playing before the home masses on a team motivated to win for the first time in a season it has, by all accounts, diligently prepared to play.

There were mistakes to be sure against UCLA, but there was a lot to like about UT's performance. The Vols were resilient enough to overcome leads twice in the fourth quarter on the road against an athletic and explosive Bruin defense. There was balance on offense and that enabled the Vols to control the ball for much of the first half and third quarter.

In short UT's offense played much like you might expect. Just being the first game of the season is reason enough to explain some of the miscues the Vols made, but when you add the debut of a new offense and offensive staff with a quarterback making his second career start against a defense that pressured the pocket all night, the performance was no surprise.

And it may have been good enough to win if UT could have just got a push in the kicking game, an area that has plagued the Vols in big game setbacks over recent seasons. Of course most close contests are determined by the kicking game, a point the General understood and practiced religiously.

This however shouldn't be a close game. It's a game the Vols will be focused to play well and motivated to win big because the loss to the Bruins was costly and something the Vols had to live with for two weeks. It also created a sense of urgency for Tennessee which knows it has to play much better beginning Saturday.

Simply stated: Tennessee can't hope to upset Florida without first overwhelming UAB and established some momentum as well as confidence. Look for the starving Vols to make fast work of this cupcake.

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