At long last, the season opener is here and it couldn’t be any bigger. The talk among players, coaches, and the front office alike has been buzzing. Excitement has permeated throughout locker rooms, especially in the aftermath of the spring games. So, here we are, kicking off the new season with an Orange Bowl rematch. So, let’s break it all down again.
So, let’s be fair, this offense wasn’t the most explosive last season. It also wasn’t the most dynamic I would say. Quarterback Devonta Cribbs showed glimpses of explosion, and is certainly a threat in both the running and passing games. Unfortunately, he wound up a bit of a liability in the Orange Bowl in both areas. Cribbs threw two interceptions, and fumbled late which ultimately sealed the deal in that game. The beauty of it though, is that the Ducks have added wide receiver Dijon Swann to provide a true monster of a threat in the passing game. The only question is, can he pull through?
On the other hand, it’s the Oregon defense, one of the most hard-hitting and stingiest of the defenses in the league. Among the defenses, corner Israel Cassius has proven himself to be the most dangerous player on this defense. At any point in time, Cassius can snag a pass out of the air and tie six points to it in the same play. He did it a lot last season, just not in the Orange Bowl, although he did have seven tackles, one of which was for a loss. Likewise, safety Jack Frost is the enforcer of the defense, and usually ends with a high tackle total. In the Orange Bowl, he had the same stat total as Cassius, the only difference being, Frost came down with an interception himself. They’re looking to lead the charge once again.
Ah, the Volunteers, the National Champions from a season ago. Quarterback Dewey Ainge is back, as is halfback Donny Kazee, both of whom had nice games in that Orange Bowl. Ainge threw for 333 yards with three touchdowns to offset his lone interception. Kazee complimented the air attack with 32 carries for 130 yards and a touchdown of his own. The difference this year, though, is that they got a major upgrade in the passing game with wide receiver Nick Bagg. He’s in for a test today against this Oregon secondary.
Then, there’s the defense. A Tennessee defense that held Clemson to just 12 points a season ago. The same defense that saw a hero emerge on their side of the ball. Linebacker Ronald McFish was the player to knock the ball out of Cribbs’ hands late in the Orange Bowl which ultimately ended the game. Furthermore, McFish racked up 12 tackles, three for a loss, and a sack on top of it. This year, they’ve had to reload the defensive side of the ball, and it doesn’t seem to have lost a step on paper. In part, because of corner Shabazz Topaz to partner with Tyler Ruano on the opposite side. Oh, and safety Buster Bates is joining Andrew Tillman. Don’t sleep on this secondary.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
So, this is a bit of a grudge match for Oregon, and I mean that literally. The Ducks feel as though the Volunteers stole something, something that Oregon fans feel should be theirs. Expect there to be a fire on the Oregon side of the ball in all three phases of the game. They’re angry.
HB Speedy Love v. MLB Ronald McFish
Look, McFish was the Orange Bowl hero for Tennessee. He’s also looking to claim the title as best linebacker in the CFSL. In order to do that, he has to contain the shifty Speedy Love. The halfback from a season ago certainly had his ups and downs to start the season, but quickly got going from about week six on. If the Ducks want to surprise Tennessee, they need love involved heavily.
Look, I get it, Tennessee is coming off a National Title season, where they also swept through the SEC. I also understand they’ve got some core players returning while upgrading in a couple spots. But let’s set this straight. If I’m Oregon, I’m angry with last season. Which means I’m coming out on fire tonight, looking to take the CFSL by storm and make a statement to open the season. Cribbs should have a nice game, courtesy of Swann and Love. Give me the Ducks to win a close one.
Oregon 34, Tennessee 31