No. 15 Tennessee hosts Ohio before starting SEC play
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee wants to continue one streak before the Volunteers think about ending another.
The 15th-ranked Volunteers (2-0) will seek their ninth consecutive victory over the last two seasons Saturday when they host Ohio (1-1). This marks Tennessee's longest winning streak since a 14-game run from 1998-99.
The visit from Ohio will be Tennessee's last game before opening Southeastern Conference play next week against No. 23 Florida, which has beaten the Vols each of the last 11 seasons .
Tennessee insists it isn't worrying about Florida just yet. The Vols are too concerned with trying to slow down an Ohio offense averaging 45 + points and 563 yards per game.
''There's no looking ahead,'' Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs said. ''We're locked in and focused on the task at hand and getting ready for Saturday.''
Ohio, which has never beaten a Top 25 team, is trying to earn its second straight victory over a Power Five opponent after winning 37-21 at Kansas last week . The Bobcats took an early 25-0 lead in that game and are outscoring teams 14-0 in the first quarter thus far, while Tennessee has needed to erase double-digit deficits in each of its first two games.
''Certainly it's a great challenge to play Tennessee, and you know I think our players look forward to those kinds of challenges,'' Ohio coach Frank Solich said. ''We'll obviously play hard, and what we need to do is play our best football and see where that leaves us. We've faced some very good football teams over the course of my time here. Some of those players that are on our team now have been in some very big games, and so we hope to handle it well and play our best football and see where that puts us.''
Tennessee coach Butch Jones knows Solich well from his own Mid-American Conference background. Jones coached Central Michigan from 2007-09. Jones' Central Michigan team beat Solich's Ohio squad 20-10 in the 2009 MAC championship game.
Jones noted that Ohio lost 31-29 to Appalachian State in last season's Camellia Bowl after leading 24-7. Tennessee trailed Appalachian State 13-3 at halftime two weeks ago before winning 20-13 in overtime .
''This is a football program that has played on a big stage and has won big football games,'' Jones said. ''We know we're going to get their best shot.''
Some things to watch when Tennessee, a 27-point favorite, hosts Ohio:
ON THE LINE: Ohio hasn't allowed a sack all year and has averaged 5.2 yards per carry, but the Bobcats' offensive line faces a significantly tougher test Saturday. Tennessee's Derek Barnett, who recorded 10 sacks each in 2014 and 2015, is still seeking his first sack of the season. Barnett said he had ''one of my softer performances'' against Virginia Tech last week.
BALL-HAWKING VOLS: Tennessee forced five fumbles against Virginia Tech and recovered all of them. Tennessee safety Micah Abernathy had three fumble recoveries. Ohio must protect the football to stay close in this one.
FINISHING DRIVES: Ohio kicker Louie Zervos already is 9 of 10 on field-goal attempts through the first two games of the season. Ohio won't have a chance of pulling the upset if it's settling for field goals rather than scoring touchdowns.
MOBILE QBs: Tennessee's Joshua Dobbs ran for 106 yards and accounted for five touchdowns (three passing, two rushing) in a 45-24 victory over Virginia Tech . Ohio's Greg Windham, a fifth-year senior but first-year starter, already has thrown for 560 yards and five touchdowns and has run for 183 yards and one touchdown. Windham averages 7.6 yards per carry.
DEFENSIVE REINFORCEMENTS: Tennessee will be playing without defensive end LaTroy Lewis and linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr., who have ankle injuries. Colton Jumper, a former walk-on, will be starting in place of Kirkland at Mike linebacker. Corey Vereen, who had a combined 18 starts in 2014-15, will likely start in place of Lewis.
AP college football site: http://collegefootball.ap.org