Devil's Advocate

Justin Hunter

Check out this season's second edition of InsideTennessee's Devil's Advocate series in which two staff members break down why their assigned team will win on Saturday.

We at InsideTennessee.com love a good debate. That's why we believe you'll enjoy Devil's Advocate, in which two staff members take opposing sides on each Tennessee football game. Each week one staffer will present evidence showing why the Vols should win/beat the spread, while the other will offer a spirited rebuttal.

Here are the Game 2 arguments:

WHY TENNESSEE WILL ROLL

by Randy Moore

Some folks think Cincinnati is an offensive juggernaut because it put a 72-10 beat-down on Austin Peay last weekend. Sorry, but I've seen this movie before.

I remember folks thinking Tennessee was an offensive juggernaut after it hammered Louisiana Monroe 70-3 in 2000. Seven days later that same Vol squad fell to a mediocre LSU team that was coming off a home-field loss to UAB. A week later, the supposed UT juggernaut managed one touchdown in a 21-10 loss to Georgia.

Hanging 70 on a hapless opponent may be fun but it means absolutely nothing when you face a defense with an actual pulse ... like the Tennessee defense Cincinnati will face Saturday at Neyland Stadium.

It's true that the Bearcats have a quality quarterback (Zach Collaros), a quality running back (Isaiah Pead) and a quality receiver (D.J. Woods). Well, guess what? They had those guys last fall but still lost 31-7 to Syracuse, 31-10 to West Virginia and 28-10 to Pitt.

Some folks suggest Cincinnati is vastly improved in 2011 because it returns all 11 starters from its 2010 defense. Really? This is a defense that allowed opponents to complete 64.9 percent of their passes (240 of 370) last fall and allowed 33 points per game in Big East play.

Tennessee's Tyler Bray, averaging 306.5 passing yards per game in his first six college starts, must be licking his chops. Ditto for Justin Hunter and Da' Rick Rogers, each of whom is coming off a 100-yard receiving day in the Vols' opener.

Determined to dress up the Bearcats, Tennessee's coaching staff notes that Cincinnati won 33 games and played in two BCS bowl games between 2007 and 2009. News flash: The players who won those games are gone. So is the coach, Brian Kelly. His successor, Butch Jones, went 4-8 last fall and had the program in free-fall down the stretch. The Bearcats dropped five of their final six games.

Cincinnati is a program on the decline, and hanging 72 points on a putrid Austin Peay squad doesn't alter that fact. This will become evident Saturday afternoon at Neyland Stadium.

WHY CINCINNATI WILL SOAR

by Danny Parker

The argument's been made all week — while both schools are based in the same state, Austin Peay is no Tennessee. Well, while that's true, Vol fans need to keep in mind that Cincinnati's talent base is on a whole other level from Montana.

Cincinnati football is a program that is just one year removed from taking an undefeated regular season into the Sugar Bowl after its second consecutive Big East Conference championship. Had Alabama or Texas faltered late, the Bearcats could have been in the Rose Bowl playing for the national title.

Do not sell this team short simply because coach Brian Kelly departed for Notre Dame. Is he Vince Lombardi or something? Fighting Irish fans aren't exactly erecting statues in his honor after seeing their beloved team fall to Tulsa last year in South Bend and to South Florida last week.

The Volunteers want so badly to turn the corner and get back to their winning ways.

One reason why Tennessee hasn't managed to start its season 2-0 since 2006 — Florida.

While coach Derek Dooley scoffs at the notion of a team with 20 losses in three years looking past anybody, it's still the Gators, still the Southeastern Conference opener, still arguably the most hated rival.

The entire front seven for the Bearcats defense is upperclassmen, including four seniors. Tennessee blockers are all underclassmen except for left tackle Dallas Thomas and tight end Mychal Rivera and there's only one senior in the offensive huddle — tailback Tauren Poole.

As Dooley noted on his own show that aired Sunday, he had 17 freshmen and sophomores in the 24-man starting lineup.

Eventually, Big Orange County will need to come to grips with the fact that it's extremely tough to win games like this and anything on the Southeastern Conference slate with 18- and 19-year-olds leading the way against 21- and 22-year-olds.

That may not seem like a big deal but ask a body builder how much he or she can change their body over the course of 730 days.

That extra bit of muscle mass and maturation comes in handy when you're imposing your will on your foe.

Averaging 2.8 yards per carry against the likes of Montana simply won't get the job done (nor will six fumbles).

Pay attention because there really is no way around this — until Tennessee can get back to running the football 10-12 times in a row and completing drives with opponents on their backs on the checkerboards, it will never return to greatness.

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