It was feel-good Saturday on Rocky Top last weekend.
The crowd was festive. Newly-renovated Neyland Stadium was sparkling, and favorite son Peyton Manning was in attendance.
And, oh yeah, the Vols beat the stuffing out of an overmatched FCS foe to kick off the Derek Dooley era at Tennessee.
What can you really draw from the 50-0 pasting of Tennessee-Martin?
Well, for one, the Vols didn’t lose. Think Ole Miss would trade places with them right now?
They also didn’t look overly sloppy. See Florida’s botched snap seminar against Miami (Ohio) last weekend.
Moreover, they didn’t forget that the game is comprised of four quarters. LSU had a little trouble with that concept in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.
None of this means that Tennessee is going to contend for the Eastern Division title this season. The reality is that the Vols almost certainly won’t when you consider how many first-year players are in the lineup.
At the same time, maybe they’re not quite as bad as most people thought they were going to be, either.
“I don’t go into the game expecting anything,” said Dooley, who was awarded a game ball for the opener. “I just worry about the things that we can control. I literally don’t get surprised at anything. If things had gone bad, I wouldn’t have been surprised. If things go really well, I’m not surprised.
“You’ve got to prepare for everything, because that’s how football is.”
This week, his Vols prepare for a monumental test when Oregon makes its cross-country trek to Neyland Stadium.
One way or the other, there won’t be any second guessing about where this Tennessee team is following the Ducks’ visit.
Simply, Dooley said he can’t imagine a more explosive offense anywhere in the country after watching the Ducks destroy New Mexico 72-0 in the opener.
“Them and Bama are probably the best running back combination that you’ll see in the country,” Dooley said. “They (Alabama) had the best runner out, and you see how bad that hurt them last week.
“So, yeah, nobody ever stops them. You’ve just got to slow them down and try to be sound fundamentally and try to get some breaks here and there. And you’ve got to play well on offense.”
One of the things the Vols have going for them is that their first-year defensive coordinator, Justin Wilcox, is no stranger to Oregon.
As Boise State’s defensive coordinator last season, Wilcox’s defense shut down the Ducks in a 19-8 win. Having coached in the WAC, Wilcox is also no stranger to spread offenses.
“Coach Wilcox had a great game plan against (Oregon) last year, so we feel really confident with the game plan,” Tennessee linebacker Austin Johnson said. “Hopefully, we can shut them down.”
Slowing them down would work just fine, too.