VOL. 130 | NO. 240 | Thursday, December 10, 2015
College Football Notebook: Vols Get Bowl Upgrade, All-SEC Teams Named
By Don Wade
Last season, coach Butch Jones got Tennessee back to a bowl game. This season, they’ve moved up from the TaxSlayer Bowl to the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Butch Jones and the Vols suffered some tough losses early but rebounded to go 8-4 and earn a New Year’s Day Outback Bowl bid and will play Northwestern (10-2).
(AP Photo/Wade Payne)
It’s a tangible step for a program that finished 8-4, 5-3 in the SEC. And looking back over the schedule at what might have been, the Vols easily could have played for the SEC title or at least already have 10 wins.
Remember all the blown leads? The two-overtime loss to Oklahoma? Losing by one point to Florida and by four points to Arkansas and by five points to Alabama?
After the loss to the Crimson Tide, Tennessee stood at 3-4, 1-3 in the SEC. Jones was under fire. And then the Vols closed with five straight wins, albeit beating up on that weak SEC East and knocking off four teams with losing records: Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina and Vanderbilt.
Even so, what a nice comeback to a season that appeared to be slipping away. No one thought after the loss to Alabama that the Vols would be playing football on New Year’s Day.
“It shows what we’re building,” Jones said.
The Vols will play Northwestern, which went 10-2 (6-2 in the Big Ten) and ranked 12th in the AP poll. Their only losses: to strong Iowa and Michigan teams.
The Northwestern and UT programs have had a friendly relationship in the offseason, but that ends on New Year’s Day.
“It’s two very confident teams playing their best football of the year,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said.
SEC Coaches’ Teams announced
On Tuesday, Dec. 8, the 2015 All-Southeastern Conference Coaches’ Football Teams were announced and, no surprise, Alabama led with 10 players making the first or second team. Go to secsports.com to see the full list.
Here’s a look on who made the squads from the area teams of interest: Tennessee, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Arkansas and Vanderbilt.
First-Team Offense: TE Henry Hunter, Arkansas; WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss; WR Fred Ross, Mississippi State; QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State.
First-Team Defense: LB Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt; DB Trae Elston, Ole Miss.
First-Team Special Teams: Returner Evan Berry, Tennessee.
Second-Team Offense: TE Evan Engram, Ole Miss; OL Dan Skipper, Arkansas; WR De’Runnya Wilson, Mississippi State; QB Chad Kelly, Ole Miss; RB Alex Collins, Arkansas; and RB Jalen Hurd, Tennessee.
Second-Team Defense: DL Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss; Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss; Derek Barnett, Tennessee; DB Mike Hilton, Ole Miss.
Kentucky was the only school to not place at least one player on the All-SEC teams.
Crunching some Memphis numbers
The University of Memphis led the American Athletic Conference in scoring at 42.7 points per game. Here’s where they ranked in a few other categories and a look at how several players stacked up within The American:
• The Tigers were second in total offense with 510.4 yards per game.
• They were third in passing offense (324.2).
• They were 11th in passing defense (269.3 yards allowed).
• They were seventh in total defense (407.1).
• The Tigers tied with Navy for fewest sacks allowed (14) and defensively were fourth with 26 sacks.
• Their 25.8 first downs per game ranked second; they allowed 21.8 first downs, which ranked ninth.
• Their 936 yards in assessed penalties (something former coach Justin Fuente was frustrated by) was the most in the conference.
• Quarterback Paxton Lynch’s school-record 3,670 passing yards ranked second; his 28 touchdown passes led the league.
• Lynch also was first in passing efficiency, and his three interceptions were the fewest among QBs with enough pass attempts to qualify.
• WR Mose Frazier’s 66 receptions ranked fifth.
• Frazier was ninth in receiving yards per game (62.5) and Anthony Miller was 10th (62.2).
• Kicker Jake Elliott led the league in scoring with 10.7 points per game.
• Punter Spencer Smith led the league with an average of 47.2 yards per kick.