Two major programs meeting each other for the first time in the regular season. Oklahoma, number 4 in the nation, are pretty big favorites to pick up a win against Tennessee, who aren’t here representing the SEC, but mostly their efforts to try and show that their rebuild is going in the right direction.
Both Oklahoma and Tennessee are old powers in College Football. “Blue Bloods” as they usually refer to them in College Basketball. Oklahoma dominated in the 1950s, but they’ve been consistently one of the best programs in the sport ever since, even if their last national title came in 2000. Tennessee? Since the days of Neyland they’ve won just one national title that’s also been recognized by others, and it’s been 16 years since that season. They’ve won two games to start this season against Utah State and Arkansas State, and it’s still not enough for them to be ranked.
Oklahoma have gone 2-0 as well to start the season, beating Louisiana Tech and Tulsa. They’re #4 in the nation. Very different expectations. Very different recent success, with the Sooners getting their recognition from beating Alabama in last year’s Sugar Bowl. It also helps that they’re always on top or near the top of the Big 12. Tennessee haven’t won the SEC since 1998 and it’s been seven years since they won the SEC East, later losing to LSU in the conference championship game.
Oklahoma have been mostly dominant in the first 30 minutes of their games up to this point, outscoring their opponents 62-3 during those four quarters so far. Trevor Knight and Sterling Shepard are obviously the main executioners in this offense. Knight has already connected twice with Shepard for touchdowns this season. Shepard broke out late last season, and seems like he’s shaping out to be one of the best wide receivers in the nation very quickly.
Tennessee have shown some impressive defense through their first two wins. Their two opponents have converted just 7 of their 31 third down snaps. They were 90th in the nation last season in that category (42.5%). The defense has already recorded 15 tackles for a loss. They’re a lot quicker and aggressive than last season on that side of the ball, but getting tested against a much more capable offense will show us if Butch Jones is really pushing the Vols in the right direction.
There’s obviously the whole Bob Stoops vs the SEC issue in this. A loss and those supporting the most successful conference in the BCS era will have something to brag about for a long time. A win will mean that Stoops’ comments about the SEC not being all that great in terms of overall quality and depth were true. For the Sooners this is just another game in theory en route to competing for bigger things. For Tennessee, even a loss but staying close, will mean this program is finally picking itself up from a very long dry spell.