3:30 PM ET, September 14, 2013
Autzen Stadium, EUGENE, OR
While Oregon hasn't relinquished its place among the most prolific scoring teams in the nation, the Ducks insist there's still room for improvement offensively.
That's a scary thought for unbeaten Tennessee, which faces the difficult challenge of slowing the second-ranked Ducks.
Oregon looks to win its 22nd straight home game against an unranked opponent when it takes on the Volunteers for the first time in three years Saturday.
Mariota finished with 321 total yards and three touchdowns, while Thomas had 124 rushing yards and three scores in last Saturday's 59-10 victory at Virginia.
"If everything starts to click for us, I think things will get rolling and we'll be pretty good," said Mariota, who completed 14 of 28 attempts for 199 yards and two touchdowns.
Although Oregon is averaging 62.5 points and 664.5 yards per game after putting up 49.6 and 537.4 with Chip Kelly running the show last season, first-year coach Mark Helfrich believes there's still work to do after his team committed 11 penalties against the Cavaliers for 119 yards -- the program's highest total since Dec. 2, 2011.
"Obviously we will clean that up," said Helfrich, who served as offensive coordinator for four years under Kelly.
With the Ducks averaging an outstanding 9.5 yards per play and a 22.9-yard average on their 17 touchdowns, the Volunteers (2-0) hope they've fixed some of the problems that caused them to give up 14 touchdowns of at least 40 yards last season.
They shut out FCS program Austin Peay in their opener before forcing seven turnovers in a 52-20 victory over Western Kentucky last Saturday, but facing the high-scoring Ducks presents them with a whole new set of issues.
"They're going to make their big plays," Tennessee first-year coach Butch Jones said. "That's a function of what they do. That's part of their offense. It's not letting one big play equal two, equal three, equal four and have a snowball effect. ... We have to force them to make them drive the football on us, and that's very challenging."
The Volunteers can help their defense by keeping the ball out of Oregon's hands, and they'll try to sustain some long drives behind a running game that has totaled 555 yards and seven touchdowns. Rajion Neal leads the team with 216 yards and four scores and Marlin Lane has 136 yards and three touchdowns.
Justin Worley has completed 22 of 32 passes for 246 yards with four touchdowns and one interception.
They'll face an Oregon team that has limited opponents to 2.8 yards per carry. The Ducks may be even better defensively after holding opponents to an average of 21.6 points in the offensive-minded Pac-12 last season.
"They're as good as advertised, probably the most complete team I've seen in a number of years to date," Jones said.
After falling behind early, Oregon managed to hold down the Volunteers' offense the only other time these teams met Sept. 11, 2010. Tennessee led 13-3 before the Ducks rattled off 45 unanswered points en route to a 48-13 victory.
Tennessee defensive end Jacques Smith is expected back Saturday after missing the first two games with a fractured right thumb.
Defensive lineman Maurice Couch, however, has been ruled ineligible as the university investigates allegations he was one of five Southeastern Conference players to receive improper benefits.
Jones wouldn't discuss Couch's status for the rest of the season.
"All I can speak of right now is the present," Jones said Thursday during his weekly interview with Nashville radio station 104.5, "and the present is he will not be accompanying us to Oregon."
Couch, 23, played each of Tennessee's first two games as a reserve and made four tackles and one sack. He made 38 tackles and one sack while starting nine games last season.
Oregon has won 21 straight home games against unranked teams by an average of 34.0 points, while the Volunteers have lost 16 in a row -- including the postseason -- versus ranked foes.
Top 25 Overview
The Ducks have had five 100-yard rushing performances already in two games -- a pair from De'Anthony Thomas, two from Marcus Mariota and one from Byron Marshall. They wrap up their nonconference season at home against a Tennessee team that's allowed only 20 points in its first two games, but has yet to be really tested.
|Avg Points Allowed||26.3||9.0|
De'Anthony Thomas has scored 5 TDs this season on just 31 combined rushes and receptions (6.1 Rush & Rec per TD). That's even better than the FBS-leading pace at which he's scored during his Oregon career.[+]
Tennessee's 45-point loss is its worst since a 48-0 loss vs Mississippi A&M in 1910.
Marcus Mariota had another spectacular performance on Saturday, accounting for 483 total yards (12.4 yards per play) and 5 touchdowns. Mariota has finished with a Total QBR of 96 or higher in all 3 games this season. His 97.4 Total QBR through his team's first 3 games is the 2nd-highest by any player (min. 50 action plays) in the last 10 seasons, trailing only Russell Wilson's 98.6 through Wisconsin's first 3 contests in 2011.[+]
Highest Total QBR Through 3 Team Games - Min. 50 Action Plays, Last 10 Seasons
* Oregon has tied the 2nd longest streak of games with at least 59 points in college football since the end of World War II. This shouldn't come as a surprise though. Oregon had a similar 3-game streak last year, right before they lost to Stanford in the Ducks' only loss of 2012.[+]
Most Consecutive Games with 59+ Points - FBS, Since WWII
The Ducks finished with an offensive EPA of +39.4, meaning their offense contributed nearly 40 net points toward the 45-point victory. That's their 3rd-highest single game Off EPA since 2004 but not even their highest in 3 games this season - they had a +42.3 in Week 1 vs Nicholls State. Their average offensive EPA of +33.4 per game is the 3rd-highest among any FBS team through the first 3 games of the year in the last 10 seasons.[+]
Highest Off EPA PG Through 1st 3 Games - Last 10 Seasons
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