Editors note: Make sure to check in each Friday for our game-by-game predictions leading up to the season – zach
Coming off two home games in the friendly confines of Neyland Stadium, Butch Jones and company will head to rowdy Autzen Stadium to take on the high-octane Oregon Ducks. The Vols will be heavy underdogs, as the early line has Oregon favored by 25 points. This game could show what kind of team Butch Jones has built. Will the Vols step up and compete against an elite team, or will they prove the odds makers right and get blown out?
The Ducks are coming off an impressive 12-1 record and a beat down of Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl, however, Oregon lost All-Pac 12 running back Kenjon Barner and coach Chip Kelly to the NFL. The good news for them is they have more than enough talent to make up for the loss of Barner.
The loss of Kelly, who was the mastermind of the powerful Oregon offense, might be a different story. Kelly left Oregon to become the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, after Andy Reid was relieved of his duties. Quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back DeAnthony Thomas return to help the transition for new head coach Mark Helfrich.
By the time the Vols get to Eugene, they will be two games into the Butch Jones era and playmakers should have started to emerge. The offense will need to be clicking and the defense will need to be on focused and ready in order to keep up with Oregon’s fast-paced offense.
While nobody wants to lose, fans should be happy if their Vols can be competitive in this game. Coach Jones and his staff will learn from this loss and have their guys ready to go into Gainesville.