The Kickoff: Oregon gets a final tune-up as it faces Tennessee Tech

EUGENE, OR - SEPTEMBER 08: Kenjon Barner #24 of University of Oregon Ducks runs the ball for a touchdown in second half action against Fresno State Bulldogs at Autzen Stadium on September 8, 2012 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Kevin Casey/Getty Images)

Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles (2-0) at #4 Oregon Ducks (2-0)
12:00 PM Pacific :: Autzen Stadium
TV :: Pac-12 Networks

ABOUT THE OPPONENT:

The Oregon Ducks return to the field next Saturday for their final non-conference tune-up of the season. On the menu are the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles of the Ohio Valley Conference. Tennessee Tech is located in Cookeville, Tennessee, about midway between Nashville and Knoxville on Interstate 40. For six years running, US News and World Report has ranked Tennessee Tech one of the top eight public colleges in the South, automatically disqualifying the school from ever gaining admittance into the SEC. The school is home to just shy of 12,000 students, and, as you would expect from the name, places a heavy emphasis on engineering and technical programs. Among Tennessee Tech traditions is throwing squares of toilet paper into the air to celebrate the first basket during basketball games against rival Austin Peay State University.

On on the football field, Tech has a long history of mediocrity, with a few high points sprinkled in. However, last season marked a high note, as Tennessee Tech was co-champion of the Ohio Valley Conference and made the FCS playoffs for the first time in school history. While that visit ended in a first round playoff loss to Central Arkansas, the Golden Eagles' 7-4 record was their best since 2001, and Tech has started this season similarly strong. TTU started the season at home against fellow FCS member Hampton, winning 41-31, before trouncing Division II North Greenville 42-14. They are coached by veteran head coach Watson Brown, brother of Texas' Mack Brown, who offers up the "fastest 60 minutes in football" with his no huddle offense.

Tennessee Tech on Offense:

Two games is a small sample size, especially when one of those games is against a Division II squad, but, thus far, Tennessee Tech has lived up its billing as an offensive juggernaut. The Golden Eagles average nearly 42 points and 513 yards per game, with a balanced attack that has success both through the air (306.5 ypg) and on the ground (206.5 ypg). You will see many of the same principles that you see out of Oregon--fast tempo, no huddle, get playmakers into open space. While that might work in the Ohio Valley Conference, trying to out-Oregon Oregon is another matter entirely.

The Golden Eagles are led by quarterback Tre Lamb. The 5'9" junior came to Tennessee Tech as a dual threat quarterback, though he hasn't been asked to run much with only two carries this season. What Lamb can do is throw the ball, and he has completed passes at a 69% clip through two games this season, improved from a 63% mark last year. Lamb has thrown seven touchdowns to one interception, but also has been sacked four times on the year. I expect Oregon to run a fairly vanilla defense again, but they should be able to get to the quarterback should they desire.

Lamb does have some dangerous weapons around him, and the one that should be of concern to Duck fans is former Tennessee receiver Da'Rick Rogers. Rogers transferred to Tennesseee Tech after being suspended indefinitely by the Volunteers in the offseason. Rogers was a big play threat in the SEC last season, catching 67 ball for 1040 yards and nine touchdowns. The 6'3" target is off to another stellar season, with eight receptions and 163 yards (two touchdowns) through two games this season, meaning cornerback Terrance Mitchell will likely see the most challenging matchup on the field for Oregon. Lining up opposite Rogers is the 5'9" Tremain Hudson, also with eight receptions on the season. The Golden Eagles have at six other players with at least three receptions, so they are incredibly deep at the receiver position, though Rogers is the clear star.

The running back is Adam Urbano, who is in his first season at Tech after transferring from Georgia Southern. Urbano has had a nice early season, averaging 140 yards a game on 39 total carries. He's a bit of a physical runner at 5'8", but 195 pounds. That said, he won't have any kind of breakaway speed against Oregon's defense.

TENNESSEE TECH DEFENSE:

The Tennessee Tech defense has been stout this season, averaging only 253 yards per game against all season, an impressive number considering their offensive pace. However, once you get past the general numbers, there are concerns that imply a very misleading picture for Tennessee Tech fans. The first game against Hampton appears to be very weird. Hampton had only seven drives all day in the first game. They scores on four of those plus a kickoff return, putting up 31 points in a game in which they had only 192 total yards. They were content to dink and dunk (19 receptions for 103 yards) and were able to do that and get first downs consistently enough to score on over half of their possessions. North Greenville put up 314 yards, but was done in by three turnovers. Its a bend-but-don't-break style, designed to keep everything in front of them. That's one thing to do against Hampton. Its another thing to do against DeAnthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner in open space. I also note that they have zero sacks on the season, as they seems to be a defense that isn't keen on taking a lot of risk. The key players are linebacker Howard Griffin and rover Will Johnson, a Kentucky transfer.

TENNESSEE TECH SPECIAL TEAMS:

As previously noted, Tennessee Tech has already allowed a kickoff return touchdown this season, and it wouldn't shock me to see them short kick it, as the first two opponents have done this season. Their punter, Chad Zinchini, has been very good, averaging 45.5 yards per punt. Their kicker, Zach Sharp, has been fairly accurate with a career long of 49 yards.

KEY MATCHUP:

Oregon CB Terrance Mitchell vs. TTU WR Da'Rick Rogers seems to be the answer here. Rogers is the one true Division 1-A talent on the squad, and is on par with the elite receivers in the Pac-12. The matchup should provide a great test for Mitchell going into the conference season.

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