Keys to the game

Run the ball, run the clock and shorten the game on the opponent's home field.

Does that game plan sound familiar? It should. It's the one Tennessee used against Florida last Saturday in Gainesville and it's the same one Ohio University will use against Tennessee tonight (7 p.m. kickoff) in Knoxville.

The Vols did such a good job of running the ball and running the clock last weekend that they gave the top-ranked Gators fits before bowing 23-13. The Bobcats are capable of doing the same thing to the Big Orange, thanks to their ball-control option attack.

"We know they're similar to the Florida offense," Tennessee defensive end Chris Walker noted earlier this week. "We're going to have to play an option team for the third time this year already."

When the OU option game is clicking, it effectively keeps the ball away from its opponent. That was the case last fall against third-ranked Ohio State, which was outgained 272-254 total yards and needed two late touchdowns to overcome the Bobcats 26-14 in Columbus.

"We know what they did against Ohio State, which is a very good team," Walker said. "If we're not on our A-game with the option stuff, they can give us a lot of problems."

Another key to tonight's outcome is Tennessee's focus. This is a real sandwich game for the Vols, who are coming off an emotional loss to Florida in Game 3 and looking ahead to a huge SEC showdown with Auburn in Game 5. Given these circumstances, it would be easy for them to overlook Game 4.

Head coach Lane Kiffin hopes his team will not allow that to happen.

"We need to act like we're playing the No. 1 team in the country this week," he said. "We need to prepare that way, regardless of who (the opponent) is. That's what championship teams do."

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