Tennessee Stat Book
1. Get the ‘W’ (Duh!): After two weeks of getting bullied by top-10 foes, the Vols will be favored today. Enjoy it — and don’t blow it. Tennessee won’t be a favorite again until Memphis on Nov. 6. October will be brutal with trips to LSU, Georgia and South Carolina and only No. 1 Alabama at home. Any ‘Ws’ in that mix will require a significant upset.
2. Leg Men: UT’s Chad Cunningham is coming off a big punting effort against Florida. He’ll have to have magic in his leg to match UAB’s Trey Ragland, who ranks third in the nation with a 48.4-yard average. Futhermore, the Vols will be hard-pressed to fix their return game this week. UAB has allowed a minus-2 net yards in punt returns this season.
3. Split Personality: Justin Wilcox’s defense faces a two-headed challenge. The Blazers play two quarterbacks, one a runner and the other a passer. Bryan Ellis (the passer) will get his first start based on his big game last week, 360 yards against Troy. David Isabelle (the other) rushed for 214 yards in UAB’s opener, but only a combined 50 yards in the two games since.
4. Step In, Step Up: The Vols are battered and bruised after Oregon and Florida. Look for a couple of new starters today, including freshman guard James Stone. Lack of depth and experience, UT’s twin dilemmas, will be in play. Rookie receivers will be spotlighted since UT’s veteran wideouts , Gerald Jones (out), Denarius Moore (ankle) and Zach Rogers (shoulder), might not make much of a contribution.
5. Oku, OK?: Today could be a big game for sophomore David Oku. He’s been called out by Derek Dooley for not running with conviction on kickoff returns and certainly wants to impress the head man enough to keep his job. Also, Tauren Poole is among the walking wounded, so Oku should get more than his share of carries at tailback.