Vols face biggest test of the season

One down, eleven to go. A few questions were answered Saturday night in the season opener for the University of Tennessee. Go "Inside" to get our thoughts on the positives in the Vols 50-0 win over UT Martin. How big is this week's game against Oregon? We have those answers and more.

Fall is in the air.

It's football time at Tennessee. Derek Dooley won his opening debut to kick off the Dooley era of football at Tennessee, and all is well.

Not so fast. Yes, the Volunteers accomplished one major thing against Tennessee-Martin this weekend - they won and disposed of a team that they were supposed to beat.

Going into Saturday night's opener no one was absolutely certain that Tennessee would even do that, and no one knew what to expect from this team. How would they respond to Dooley and his new coaching staff? Most of those questions were answered.

This was a team that didn't make too many mistakes. They didn't rack up a lot of penalties, not too shabby for a team that had a true freshman starting on the offensive front. Not to mention that 12 true freshmen saw action against UT-Martin.

Ask James Stone about freshmen mistakes. He was put in on a goal-line situation for his first play as a Tennessee Vol. Instead of having just one yard to go, it was six yards after he jumped in anticipation.

"I felt sorry for James," Dooley mentioned after the game. "His first time to ever play in front of that many fans, his first play as a Vol and he jumps early. That's a tough situation to put him on his first play as a true freshman."

For the most part this team played with discipline, very few assignments were blown and it appears that they were well prepared. Give the credit to Dooley and his staff.

Don't kid yourself, though, as it's much easier to look better prepared against a lesser opponent. No intended offense to UT Martin but that is not a top flight opponent. The top flight opponents are en route to Knoxville with Oregon and Florida up next.

Just how good is Dooley's young football team?

There is no doubt the team played well Saturday night for the most part, but the bigger test and the biggest questions will come this upcoming weekend.

Oregon dismantled a New Mexico team, 72-0, in impressive fashion. I'm pretty sure the Lobos are a little better team than UT Martin.

But again not so fast Vol fans.

While Oregon will be a much better team than Martin, we shouldn't feel that we saw everything the Vols have to offer either.

I would almost be willing to bet that we only saw a little of what Justin Wilcox will have in store for the Ducks. Don't forget that the young talented defensive coordinator called one of his better games last season against Oregon while at Boise State.

The offense struggled at times but also showed big play capabilities. For the most part Offensive Coordinator Jim Chaney wasn't pulling out the kitchen sink for the Skyhawks of the OVC.

This coming Saturday will give Vol Nation a good sense of just how good this Tennessee team could be.

Tennessee will have to play its A game against Oregon, no doubt about it.

Oregon may be the better team on paper, but, hey folks, this game isn't played on paper. It's played on the football field and this game will just happen to be played in front of over 100,000 orange and white screaming fans.

Dooley completed step one of a twelve-step process this season. He won his first game, he defeated a team that he should beat and beat them in the fashion that the Vols should have done.

Now, it's step two.

Tennessee needs to pass its biggest test of the season.

Dooley said earlier this fall that he takes one game at time and looks at each game as a one-game season.

You can expect that Dooley and his staff will bring their A coaching plan for the Ducks. I'm willing to say that Wilcox will have defenders flying from all directions to slow down the high powered Duck offense.

Is a win absolutely necessary?

No, it's not, but let's not kid ourselves either. This is a very pivotal game when it comes to the Vols' success this season.

A win will automatically increase fan and player expectations to a 7-5 or 8-4 season or better.

A loss to the Ducks will cause people to think more of a 6-6 season.

I know what you're thinking. How can you say that when it's only the second game of the year. Trust me on this one: This game will play a big role in the Vols success this season for such a young ball club. Early success will give this squad the needed confidence headed into another tough home game against SEC East power Florida.

Things don't get easier for the Vols, so get the win when you can, and the next test is this weekend against Oregon.


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