The No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners look to strengthen their playoff position with an early victory over an SEC opponent, while freshman-loaded Tennessee eyes a huge upset Saturday night at Memorial Stadium. It’s the first meeting between the two schools since the 1968 Orange Bowl, when the Sooners pulled out a 26-24 victory. The all-time series is split 1-1, but they’ve never met each other during the regular season.
Winning their first two games of the season by a combined 79 points, the Sooners are favored by three touchdowns, with odds makers likely focused on the huge age difference between the two squads. Thirteen true or redshirt freshmen will be available for Tennessee head coach Butch Jones, according to reports, and 22 true freshmen have already played in the Vols two victories over Utah State and Arkansas State. Sooners head coach Bob Stoops will in turn rely on his 12 fifth-year seniors, seniors or redshirt juniors.
Thus far age and lack of experience has made little difference to the Vols. The offense outscored Utah State and Arkansas State 72-26, and capitalized on turnovers with 48 points. It certainly helps that Tennessee has a senior under center. Quarterback Justin Worley’s completed 64.5 percent of his passes for 520 yards and five touchdowns, and another score on the ground.
But unless Tennessee can find a way to slow Oklahoma’s power running game, Worley may be forced to dig his team out of an early hole. Led by the three-headed attack of Keith Ford, Alex Ross and Samaje Perine and a dominant offensive line, the Sooners have gained 444 yards and scored nine touchdowns on the ground. The Vols are letting up 120.5 rushing yards per game, but haven’t faced a rushing attack like the Sooners.
Worley does have freshman running back Jalen Hurd to help out, and sophomore receiver Marquez North as his primary weapons. But Sooners pass rushers Eric Striker and Charles Tapper could force Worley into some early mistakes.
Tennessee could make up some ground with a strong secondary looking to contain Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight. Stoops hasn’t asked much of Knight early in the season, but he’s still one of the more lethal passers in the country. The sophomore hasn’t improved his accuracy, but he’s still completed 40 passes for 552 yards and three touchdowns.
Knight also has two of the best receivers in the Big 12 to target, with junior Sterling Shepard making 12 receptions for 226 yards and two touchdowns, and Durron Neal hauling in eight catches for 112 yards.
Tennessee will turn to senior cornerback Justin Coleman and sophomore Cameron Sutton to lead a pass defense that’s already generated two interceptions, and senior linebacker A.J. Johnson dropping back into coverage or hoping to stop a Sooner running back from breaking free for big yardage.
Betting Odds: Oklahoma -21
Over/Under: 56.5 points
Start Time: 8 p.m. EST
TV Channel: ABC
Prediction: Oklahoma over Tennessee, 34-20