Although the Volunteers haven't fallen to a Big East foe since 1983, this Cincinnati team returns 18 starters from last season and poses serious problems for opponents with its spread offense.
"You have to respect them," Tennessee defensive end Corey Miller said. "It's not like they're going to have a fall-off year. You can't look at it as a negative thing; they're a very good team and they have been a very good team the past couple years. It's time for us to step up and play."
In the 72-10 over Austin Peay last Saturday, Bearcat quarterback Zach Collaros was 12 of 19 passing for 134 yards and four touchdowns. He also had five rushes for 25 yards and a score.
Collaros is a 6-foot, 218-pound redshirt senior whose playmaking ability poses a clear and present threat to the Vol defense as assignment football becomes more of a key.
"They have special guys at all three levels (quarterback, running back and wide receiver)," Vol coach Derek Dooley said. "I think their running back is the leading rusher returning in the (Big East) conference. That's what makes spread offenses good, when you have a good, heavy runner who can make big plays because you can't load up the box and you have to stop the run with about the same numbers as what they have blocking and that becomes tough."
While Tennessee looks to up its record to 2-0 for the first time since 2006, playing spread offenses like Montana and Cincinnati can prepare the Vols for that style of play deeper into the schedule.
"You know you're going to see it down the road. It's a chance to test your abilities against it already before you get there," Miller said.
Last week, Montana completed 20 of 38 passes for 235 yards. It was successful on 44 percent of third-down attempts.
In order for those numbers to dwindle week to week in Tennessee's favor, it must get a better pass rush.
While offenses like Cincinnati's rarely commit more than 5-6 players to blocking, Miller said that doesn't mean the D-line can sprint straight upfield at the quarterback each play.
"Not necessarily. You have to be prepared overall, all around and be prepared for any type situation whether it be screen, quarterback draw or pass. You never know," he said.
The Vols didn't register a single sack against the Grizzlies, although the visitors often rolled the pocket and got the ball out their quarterback's hands within 2-3 seconds.
That is no excuse for a Southeastern Conference program playing a Football Championship Subdivision team.
Click play on the video below to see what Vol defensive end Jacques Smith said about getting more pressure and defending the spread.