There is a group of duck hunters that call themselves, “Ducks Unlimited.” They have always done a lot of good for their sport and for the environment in general. Tennessee Head Football Coach Butch Jones may need to seek their help as he prepares for second ranked Oregon this weekend. You see, even though the Ducks lost their head coach to the NFL, they had enough returning talent to retain the nation’s most explosive offensive unit. Coach Chip Kelly’s system is still in effect so the Ducks are as powerful and explosive as ever.
The Vols are 2-0 after impressive wins over Austin Peay, (45-0) and Western Kentucky, (52-20). Tennessee completely shut down the high scoring Hilltopper offense in the second half last week, but as good as Western is, Oregon is much, much better. The Ducks mauled Virginia 59-10 last weekend on the road and the quick, fast-paced Oregon attack is as good as it gets in college football.
Not even the biggest Tennessee fans are expecting a Volunteer win this weekend. “I just hope we play well,” one said.
Another was overheard saying, “I hope we don’t go all the way out there and stink it up.”
Yet another member of the Big Orange faithful said, “Man…..we’re gonna get killed!”
Ten years ago, most Tennessee fans would have been expecting a Volunteer victory, but my how things have changed. It is still too early to tell just how much the Vols have improved under new Coach Butch Jones. They have improved quite a bit in terms of schemes and effort but it remains to be seen if that improvement is enough to stay on the field with Oregon.
Knowing football coaches the way I do, I’m sure Coach Jones isn’t really concerned with the Ducks. He knows what to expect; they certainly won’t be doing anything Jones and his staff will be surprised about. I’m also sure that Coach Jones is mostly concerned with his own team. A thirty or forty point loss at Oregon won’t hurt nearly as bad if Tennessee follows the game plan and plays hard for the entire game.
There is another thing I know well about college football coaches; they never go into a game against any opponent thinking they’re going to lose. Coach Jones has a plan in place that will lead to a Tennessee victory. For that to be a possibility, several things must happen.
First, Tennessee must force several turnovers. They’ve been very good at that for the first two games of the season; six in the first half alone last week against Western Kentucky. Secondly, the Vols must move the football and avoid a lot of “three and outs.” They must also score a lot of points and they need to take as much time as they can to keep the ball away from the Ducks. Perfect execution of that game plan would just give them a chance to win, or at least be in the ball game in the fourth quarter. Everything else depends upon Oregon.
If this game were played last season, with Sal Sunseri planning for the Ducks high powered offense, I wouldn’t have even bothered to write this column, but believe me, I personally believe Tennessee is a much better football team in 2013. If the Vols and Coach Jones pull off what would be a huge, huge, upset, I will personally start a campaign to have Butch elected as national President of Ducks Unlimited.
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Brainerd High School in Chattanooga. He is also the Head Softball Coach at Brainerd. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).