On Saturday, the Oklahoma Sooners will face the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium in a showdown of top 25 teams.
The No. 23 Vols won their season opener last week 59-30 over Bowling Green in Nashville, and the No. 19 Sooners hosted and defeated Akron, 41-3.
The Vols lost at Oklahoma 34-10 last year, and the Sooners hold a 2-1 lead in the all-time series.
Tennessee’s lone victory over Oklahoma came in 1939.
If the Vols are going to win this week, they’re going to need a solid team effort. Here are three keys to a Tennessee victory over the Sooners:
1. Continue to build momentum in the run game
The Vols built their lead and controlled the game on the ground, rushing for 399 yards against Bowling Green. The sophomore duo of Jalen Hurd (123 yards, three touchdowns) and Alvin Kamara (144, 2) led the way and will need to continue to do so. If the Vols are going to win, it’s going to have to be the run game that leads the offense. And they’re going to have to do so in spite of the Sooners defense, led by senior Eric Striker, who’s not impressed with the Vols’ rushing attack.
2. Fix the secondary
Defensive backs did not fare well against Bowling Green. The Vols gave up 433 passing yards, and Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson threw for 424 yards and two touchdowns. In their season opener against Akron, the Sooners focused mostly on the passing game, throwing 42 times and running 33. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield threw for 388 yards and three touchdowns. The Vols’ performance last week didn’t give Oklahoma any reason to stray from their pass-first mindset. There’s reason to be optimistic the Vols will have a better game defensively, however, now that safety Todd Kelly, Jr. is considered 100-percent and defensive backs coach Willie Martinez returns from a 1-game suspension.
3. Get Marquez North involved on offense
While the Vols’ priority should be their run game, they’re going to have to mix it up and North has to make an impact. North is one of the most dynamic playmakers on either side of the ball for Tennessee, yet against Bowling Green he didn’t catch a pass. Granted, he was eased into the Vols offense after suffering a knee injury a few weeks ago, but it’s time for the Vols to see what he can do. The return of receiver Pig Howard, who was suspended for the opener, should help North get a few extra looks.