The sheer numbers are startling.
Navy leads the nation in rushing with 444.0 yards per game.
Resting in the No. 2 slot is Oregon at 425.0 in each game.
Navy, as everyone knows, is no Oregon.
Baylor puts up 736.5 total yards per game.
Oregon is second behind the Bears with an average of 664.5 yards, with 425.0 of that coming on the ground.
Baylor is no Oregon.
Oregon is the most dangerous, most respected offense in the land and Tennessee gets its second look at the fast-break Ducks on Saturday at Autzen Stadium, where the team has drawn 90 consecutive sellouts. Game time is 3:30 p.m. and ABC will televise the action, if its cameras can keep up with the Ducks.
In last week’s rout of Nicholls, a standing-room-only crowd of 57,769 turned out at the school’s 54,000-seat stadium.
That’s the challenge for Tennessee as well. How do the Vols keep up with Oregon’s fast-paced offense that leaves opposing defenses gasping for breath.
In September 2010, the Vols, who stayed with the Ducks for a half, were unable to keep up in the second half and fell, 48-13.
Go, go, go. Oregon rarely slows down.
Of 17 touchdown drives this season, 15 have lasted less than two minutes. The Ducks last dead last (125th) in time of possession (20:35.50). That’s probably the least significant statistic in football for the Ducks.
That is only one reason the Vols are 27-point underdogs in Saturday’s game.
Still, junior defensive back Justin Coleman sees the upside of such long odds.
“It builds our confidence a little bit because we know people aren’t giving us a chance because Oregon is the No. 2 team in the country,” Coleman said, “but we will be ready and prepared for them.”
However, the big question is whether the Vols (2-0) can withstand the shock and awe of one of football’s most awesome offenses, one that former Oregon coach Chip Kelly successfully introduced to the NFL less than a week ago.
If Oregon is not going fast, it’s going faster.
One of Tennessee’s most important in-game factors will be keeping defenders fresh. In other words, the Vols must get the most of its substitutions, if they can slip in a player here and there against the Ducks.
“That’s very important,” linebacker Brent Brewer said. “Whenever they swap players in and out we have to do the same. They will swap one team at a time and then another team. Everybody will stay fresh.”
The Vols’ defense might get run ragged by chasing junior running back De’Anthony Thomas and sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota around all afternoon.
Mariota is ranked 16th nationally with 334.0 yards of total offense per game – 216.5 passing and 117.5 rushing. By comparison, Tennessee’s Justin Worley averages of 133.0 yards of offense and 102nd in passing at 123.0.
If Tennessee can’t sustain drives, the defense will be grabbing its collective britches before halftime.
Senior offensive lineman Ja’Wuan James hopes the Vols can “establish the line of scrimmage.”
“It’s up to us seven (five linemen and running backs Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane) to get things going for the offense,” James said. “Third down is very important in this game. We want to keep our defense off the field as much as we can. Also, we want to put up points and we’re going to have to convert on third down to do that.
“To be good on third down, you have to be good on first down.”
The Ducks have been good on any down, and again it’s Mariota pulling the offensive trigger.
According to game notes posted on Oregon’s website, Mariota is 21st in rushing yards, but leads the FBS in with a 26.1-yard average per run. He has three runs of 70-plus yards this season, the most of any other player in the country.
Mariota and Thomas have each gained more than 100 yards rushing in each of the Ducks’ first two games. Mariota is the first Oregon quarterback to do that in back-to-back games.
The sophomore quarterback from Hawaii is an effective passer, too. He’s thrown at least one touchdown in all 15 of his career games, and has a total of 35 TD tosses.
Scoring is second nature to Thomas. He’s tied for the national lead five touchdowns and 30 points. His career average is 1.4 touchdowns per game. You can take Thomas’ scoring ability – concentrated this season (14 of 29) on between-the-tackle-runs – to the bank.
While the “Oregon blur” offense gets most of the attention, the Ducks’ defense consistently comes up with game-changing plays that break the backs of opposing offensive units. In 2012, the Ducks led the nation with 40 takeaways – 25 interceptions, 15 fumble recoveries – and 32 came from players on the 2013 roster.
“We can’t give them added possessions,” Vols coach Butch Jones said, referring to the importance of not making turnovers and not piling up three-and-out possessions of their own. “We can’t give them a short field. It’s going to be a great challenge.”
On the West Coast, folks like to add a little flair to the school’s name – “Scoregon.” The Ducks have scored a school-record 645 points in each of the past two seasons, finishing second nationally in 2012 with 49.6 points per game.
Jones has stressed Oregon’s “pace and space” offensive scheme all week.
Sophomore defensive back Brian Randolph believes the Vols are better suited to defend that type attack than they would have been a year ago.
“I think it’s a big difference this year, especially with everybody flying to the ball,” he said. “So, that kind of limits the open field that we get. Even if we happen to miss a tackle, we know there’s going to be somebody there to pick us up.”
NOTE: Tennessee defensive lineman Maurice Couch has apologized through his Twitter account for his role in a scandal in which he reportedly received four payments amounting to $1,350 from a "runner" for an agent in 2012.
"I want to apologize to everyone from my family, teammates n Volnation. I'm sorry I let u guys down," Couch wrote.
Jones said Thursday that Couch would not accompany the team on the Oregon trip while the university investigates the improper payment allegations. Jones has not said anything about Couch's status for the rest of the season.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)