- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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Where would you go if you could spend your Saturdays watching Big 12 football in any venue you choose this fall? Would you follow your favorite players or team, go to the best tailgate/environment or simply the best matchup?
That's the premise of the 2015 Big 12 Ultimate Road Trip.
For the next few weeks, Jake Trotter, Max Olson and myself will be picking the matchup we would like to see most each week as we take a closer look at some of the best games on the Big 12 schedule in 2015.
Today, we continue the series with Week 2:
Max Olson's pick: Oklahoma at Tennessee
I'm guessing the nation will probably be watching Oregon vs. Michigan State (man, I'd love to be at that game...) but a lot of eyes will still be on coach Bob Stoops in Week 2.
Tennessee is a program pointed in the right direction and Knoxville, I'm sure, is one of the finer places to watch a game in the SEC. I'd love to see what some real Southern tailgating looks like and I'm curious to see what kind of answers the Sooners' defense has for Joshua Dobbs and Jalen Hurd. And assuming Baker Mayfield is Stoops' selection at QB, I'm excited to see that dude fired up and flinging it around once again in a big-time road test. A win could mean the start of a big year in Norman. A loss turns up the heat on Stoops.
Jake Trotter's pick: Oklahoma at Tennessee
Coming off the most disappointing season of his tenure, this figures to be the most pivotal year of Stoops' career at Oklahoma.
And the Sooners' trip to Tennessee could be the proverbial fork in the road.
Stoops made wholesale changes after going 8-5 last season, bringing in Lincoln Riley to establish an offensive identity. Defensively, he also moved his brother Mike off the secondary and hired Kerry Cooks from Notre Dame to coach the defensive backs. On top of that, the Sooners could be featuring a new quarterback, if Mayfield wins the three-way competition over incumbents Trevor Knight and Cody Thomas, as expected.
Knoxville will be the first time these drastic changes will be put to the test. Tennessee isn't Alabama. But the Vols have produced several banner recruiting classes in a row, and could be on the cusp of turning the corner after finishing strong last season.
A win in Knoxville could signal that Oklahoma is on its way back.
A loss could be the latest sign the Sooners just aren't what they used to be at the beginning of the Stoops era.
Brandon Chatmon's pick: Oklahoma at Tennessee
Much like Week 1, it's impossible to turn down a nonconference battle of two brand-name programs. The Sooners won last year's contest in Norman, 34-10, but the Vols showed flashes of their potential with a roster full of true freshmen making their first collegiate road trip. This year OU makes its first-ever trip to Knoxville to take on a much more experienced UT squad with 21 returning starters.
It is OU's first chance to prove itself on a big national stage.
Sooners running back Samaje Perine could make an early push for Heisman consideration, Riley could show he's ready for the spotlight and the winner of OU's quarterback competition, likely Mayfield, could cement his starting spot. Defensively, it is a chance for redemption for a OU defense that looked nothing like the units that have sparked Big 12 title runs for years under Bob Stoops.
OU can answer a lot of questions during the second week of the season at Neyland Stadium. Or the Sooners could stumble and continue the downward spiral that defined the end of their 2014 campaign. This is a huge game for OU and a great atmosphere to watch it all unfold.
45mMax Olson and Jake Trotter