VOL. 130 | NO. 189 | Tuesday, September 29, 2015
College Football Notebook: Vols Fans Thirsty For a Victory, Memphis Remains Unranked
By Don Wade
Arkansas and Tennessee meet at Knoxville’s Neyland Stadium Saturday, Oct. 3, in what could be dubbed the Unmet Expectations Bowl.
Remember how the Vols were the trendy pick to challenge for the title in the SEC East?
Remember how the Razorbacks were the sleeper pick to move up in the SEC West?
Right this moment, that all looks fairly crazy.
Arkansas is 1-3, has lost three in row, couldn’t beat Toledo at home, and is coming off an overtime loss to Texas A&M. Suffice it to say Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema has long since quit worrying about how many ranked teams remain on Ohio State’s schedule.
Tennessee is 2-2 and just lost its 11th straight in the series with Florida, 28-27, after blowing a 13-point lead. Earlier this year, Tennessee squandered a 14-point lead over Oklahoma and lost in double-overtime.
Vols coach Butch Jones spends a lot of time these days talking about close they were to winning a big game and expressing regret that they didn’t.
“We were one play away,” Jones said. “I feel awful for our fans. I feel awful for the kids …”
The good news: One of these teams will feel better Saturday.
The bad news: One of them will feel a lot worse and the losing coach, while not officially occupying the so-called hot seat, may detect a bit of warming trend.
UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS UNDEFEATED AND STILL UNRANKED
The Tigers’ 53-46 victory over Cincinnati Thursday, Sept. 24, provided plenty of thrills and moved the needle with poll voters – just not enough for Memphis to be ranked.
Now 4-0 and on an 11-game winning streak that dates to the middle of last season, the Tigers picked up 42 votes in the USA Today Amway Coaches poll. That wasn’t enough to crack the Top 25. In fact, it would have had them 34th.
The Tigers gained even less traction in the Associated Press poll where they got 11 votes.
Worth remembering: Even though Memphis won, the defense gave up a school-record 752 yards. That has to figure into the equation with voters, too.
Still, Memphis wide receiver Anthony Miller said after Thursday’s game he believed the Tigers had made a statement.
“We ain’t anything to play with,” he said. “We’re a legit football team.”
Ole Miss didn’t look much like the team that had beaten mighty Alabama a week earlier in its 27-16 victory over Vanderbilt. But maybe that’s a sign of progress for the program. The Rebels, at 4-0 and 2-0 in SEC play, are now good enough to be unhappy about wins.
“There were a lot of penalties (11 for 120 yards). We turned the ball over (two Chad Kelly interceptions),” Rebels coach Hugh Freeze said. “That is not stuff that is elite football.”
Auburn (2-2, 0-2) is officially out of the West race after losing 17-9 at home to Mississippi State. Tigers coach Gus Malzahn benched QB Jeremy Johnson and went with redshirt freshman Sean White as the starter, who finished 20-of-28 for 188 yards with one interception.
Four trips inside the Bulldogs’ 10-yard line resulted in just two Auburn field goals. Auburn also was just 4-for-14 on third down.
Many in the SEC media had pegged Auburn as the best of the West and Johnson had been mentioned as a possible Heisman contender. So while Malzahn apparently was way wrong about Johnson, there’s a lot of wrong to go around.
Missouri (3-1, 0-1) hadn’t looked good all season, barely surviving for a 9-6 win over Connecticut. Now the Tigers are out of the polls after a 21-13 loss at Kentucky.
Missouri continued to struggle on offense (119th in the nation) with just 111 rushing yards and QB Maty Mauk hit on just 15-of-30 passes for 180 yards and one TD.
“We were just killing ourselves,” Mauk said of drives that fell short.
Alabama at Georgia this coming Saturday was supposed to be a preview of the SEC title game. But with the Crimson Tide having lost to Ole Miss and still getting shaky quarterback play from Jake Coker, this looks more like a speed bump for the Bulldogs.
If Georgia is favored at kickoff, and it looks the Bulldogs will be, it will break a 72-game streak of Alabama being the favorite in its games.
The early line at one book had Georgia favored by two points and another had Georgia favored by one point. The last time oddsmakers had Alabama as an underdog was before the 2009 SEC Championship game against Florida.
Alabama won 32-13 and then went on to win the national championship.