Devil's Advocate (OU)

Fans who think Tennessee will trounce Ohio University Saturday night need to remember one key point: To win big, you've got to score big, and that isn't likely to happen.

Tennessee ranks 104th nationally in passing offense and 73rd nationally in total offense. The attack unit mustered just 13 points in Game 2 and 13 more in Game 3. The Big Orange ranks No. 2 nationally in interceptions (7) and No. 1 in interceptions per attempt (one every 10.4). The Vols had a fourth-quarter pick nullified by an offsides penalty in Game 2 vs. UCLA or their interception numbers would be even worse.

This weekend the Vols' error-prone air attack challenges an Ohio U defense that last Saturday held Cal Poly to one completion in 11 attempts for 12 passing yards. The Bobcats actually caught more Cal Poly passes (2) than their opponent did.

Big Ten offenses also have struggled against Ohio U. The 2008 Bobcats limited Northwestern to 280 total yards in a 16-8 loss and limited third-ranked Ohio State to 254 in a 26-14 loss. OU actually led Ohio State 14-6 in the third quarter only to let the game slip away on two special team's miscues in the fourth quarter. A fumbled punt set up a 25-yard Buckeye touchdown drive and a 69-yard punt return gave OSU an insurance TD.

Ohio University's defense is similarly stingy this fall. The Bobcats played Connecticut to a 16-23 loss one week before Connecticut dropped a 12-10 heartbreaker to No. 19 North Carolina on a safety (holding in the end zone) with 1:32 to play.

Ohio U head man Frank Solich is one of the NCAA's better coaches. He went 58-19 at Nebraska (1998-2003) and was named Big 12 Coach of the Year twice before inexplicably being fired.

Solich's familiarity with Monte Kiffin's UT defensive scheme could help the visitors a lot. The two men played one year together at Nebraska and shared ideas at several Cornhuskers coaching clinics while Solich was their head man.

Solich also has a lot of insight into Tennessee's offensive scheme, based on time spent with UT head man Lane Kiffin when the latter was an assistant at Southern Cal in the early 2000s.

"Coach Solich came out to SC the year after he was released at Nebraska," Lane Kiffin noted, "and spent a lot of time with me (talking) about our offense."

Bottom line: Ohio U is a whole lot closer to UCLA than Western Kentucky in terms of quality, meaning Saturday night's game could be a whole lot tougher than most Vol fans are anticipating.


Inside Tennessee Top Stories