Saturday's SEC Notebook
September 25, 2015
By Brian Edwards
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There are a lot of happy people in Oxford and Baton Rouge this week. On the flip side, there's a ton of negativity floating around Auburn, Tuscaloosa, Columbia (S.C.) and Fayetteville. The tone in Lexington is one of frustration, while the anxiety is high in Knoxville. As for Gainesville, I would say there's relief in surviving a scare at Kentucky, in addition to uncertainty going into Saturday's showdown vs. Tennessee. Let's take a look at what the SEC has to offer in Week 4.
**Tennessee at Florida**
-- Florida has won 10 in a row in this bitter SEC East rivalry. Truth be told, the streak should cover 11 years if not for the incompetent officiating at crunch time of the 2004 meeting in Knoxville. UF was milking the clock in the final minute and the Vols were out of timeouts. When the Gators were stopped on third down, a UT cornerback slapped Florida WR Dallas Baker in the facemask right in front of the referee. Like a dumbass, Baker responded with a slap of his own. Although replays clearly showed the official witnessing both actions, he called Baker for a unsportsmanlike conduct penalty worth 15 yards. That was irrelevant, however. What was pertinent in this instance was the incorrect decision by the lead official not to start the clock again after the 15 yards was marked off. Therefore, UT was given an extra 15 yards and most importantly, an extra 30 seconds. The Vols would win on a 50-yard field goal with six seconds remaining.
-- Florida QB Treon Harris and DB Jalen Tabor were both issued one-game suspensions Wednesday. If Will Grier doesn't get injured, the loss of Harris won't be a big deal. As for Tabor, he's an outstanding player who had a big sack and fumble recovery to spark UF's rally past Tennessee at Neyland Stadium last season. The sophomore also had a pick-six in the win over East Carolina in Week 2. Fortunately for Jim McElwain's team, the secondary is deep and loaded with talent.
-- Florida (3-0 straight up, 2-1 against the spread) captured a 14-9 win at UK as a 3.5-point road favorite. The 23 combined points fell 'under' the 52.5-point total. Will Grier and Kelvin Taylor both ran for a TD, while UF's defense kept the Wildcats out of the end zone all night. Vernon Hargreaves III had a key interception in the first half to set up a Gators' score. Leading 14-3 early in the third quarter on a first-and-goal play, Grier threw an interception that kept the 'Cats in the game.
-- Butch Jones has a 14-14 record since taking over for Derek Dooley at UT. If Jones and the Vols fall Saturday in Gainesville, Jones will have the same record that Dooley had through 29 games. In other words, all of Jones's outstanding work on the recruiting trail will mean little to a fan base that has embraced him since his arrival. This is the biggest game of his tenure at UT -- no doubt about it.
-- Tennessee blew a 17-0 lead to Oklahoma two weeks ago at Neyland Stadium, eventually losing by a 31-24 count in double overtime. The Sooners stormed back and forced the extra session thanks to a pair of Baker Mayfield TD passes, including a five-yard scoring strike to Sterling Shepard with 40 seconds left in regulation. Jalen Hurd scored on an eight-yard TD scamper to start the first OT, but OU answered with a Mayfield one-yard TD plunge. Then in the second OT, the Sooners got another TD pass from Mayfield to Shepard before the defense closed the deal.
-- Tennessee (2-1 SU, 2-1 ATS) utilized a pair of special-teams TDs, including an 88-yard kickoff return by Evan Berry in a 55-10 win over Western Carolina last weekend. Berry's brother, Vols' legend Eric, was watching from the sidelines since the Chiefs had played on Thursday night. Josh Dobbs had a pair of TD passes without being intercepted.
-- For the season, Dobbs has a 5/1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a pair of rushing scores.
-- Most books opened Florida as a two-point favorite, but the game was a pick 'em by Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday, the Vols became the favorites and the number got as high as 2.5 at some spots. As of early Friday afternoon, most shops had UT favored by one or 1.5 with a total of 48.
-- The 'over' is 2-1 for UF, 2-0 in its home games. The 'over' is also 2-1 overall for UT. This is the Vols' first road assignment of the year.
-- Kickoff at The Swamp is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
**Arkansas vs. Texas A&M**
-- This game will be played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. As of Friday, most books had Texas A&M (3-0 SU, 2-1 ATS) listed as a seven-point favorite with a total of 58. Before the season started, the Westgate SuperBook had the Razorbacks as 1.5-point favorites in the Games of the Year. Things have changed for the Hogs, however.
-- Arkansas (1-2 SU, 1-2 ATS) has dropped back-to-back home games as a double-digit favorite. The Razorbacks lost a 16-12 decision to Toledo as 22-point 'chalk' despite the fact that the Rockets were playing without their star RB (Kareem Hunt) and best pass rusher (Allen Covington) due to suspensions. Then in Week 3, Texas Tech invaded the Ozarks and avenged last year's blowout loss in Lubbock by collecting a 35-24 win as a 10-point road underdog.
-- Arkansas will face the Aggies without its three best WRs. Keon Hatcher was lost for 6-8 weeks in the loss to Toledo. Then in Week 3, Jared Cornelius and Cody Hollister sustained injuries that will keep them out for an indefinite period of time.
-- Alex Collins was shut down by Toledo, but he got back on track with 170 rushing yards and one TD on 28 carries against the Red Raiders. For the season, Collins has rushed for 351 yards and three TDs, averaging 5.8 yards per carry.
-- Arkansas QB Brandon Allen has completed 67.4 percent of his passes for 916 yards with a 6/2 TD-INT ratio.
-- Texas A&M has posted wins over Arizona St. (38-17 in Houston), Ball St. (56-23) and Nevada (44-27). Kyle Allen has connected on 61.4 percent of his throws for 594 yards with a 9/2 TD-INT ratio. True freshman Christian Kirk has been Allen's favorite target, hauling in 16 receptions for 269 yards and two TDs. Kirk also had a long punt return for a score against the Sun Devils. Josh Reynolds has snagged a team-high three TD catches.
-- When these teams squared off last season, Arkansas had a double-digit lead in the third quarter. However, Texas A&M was able to rally and eventually collect a 35-28 win in overtime. The Razorbacks covered the number as 9.5-point underdogs, but the Aggies won outright for the third straight season.
-- ESPN will have the broadcast at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
**Vanderbilt at Ole Miss**
-- As of early Friday afternoon, most books had Ole Miss (3-0 SU, 3-0 ATS) installed as a 26-point favorite with a total of 54.
-- This is a vintage letdown spot for the Rebels, who are off a monster win at Alabama by a 43-37 count as nine-point road underdogs. Chad Kelly threw for 341 yards and three TDs without an interception. For the season, Kelly has completed 64.4 percent of his passes for 898 yards with a 9/1 TD-INT ratio.
-- Cody Core has 12 receptions for a team-high 299 yards and three TDs. Quincy Adeboyejo has 10 catches for 224 yards and a team-best five TDs. Junior WR Laquon Treadwell has bounced back nicely from last year's season-ending leg injury, bringing down a team-high 14 receptions for 197 yards and one TD.
-- Vanderbilt (1-2 SU, 1-1-1 ATS) dropped its first two games at home to Western Ky. (14-12) and Georgia (31-14). The Commodores were two-point underdogs to the Hilltoppers, so their backers took a push. In the loss to UGA, Derek Mason's squad took the cash as a 20-point 'dog. The 'Dores were victims of an 88-yard pick-six and a long punt return for a TD by the Bulldogs. They also missed a short field goal before halftime, so the 17-point loss to UGA was a bit misleading.
-- Ole Miss won't have stud OT Laremy Tunsil for at least another week due to an NCAA investigation into whether or not he received improper benefits from an agent this past offseason. Also, Tony Conner is out for a month with an injury suffered at Alabama. Conner was a second-team All-SEC pick last season.
-- Ole Miss owns a 10-5-1 spread record in 16 games as a home favorite during Hugh Freeze's four-year tenure.
-- Vandy has posted a 6-3 spread record in nine games as a double-digit underdog on Mason's watch. The Commodores are 3-1 ATS in four games as road 'dogs under Mason.
-- Vandy won its first game last week by trouncing Austin Peay 47-7 as a 47-point home favorite. Johnny McCrary threw for 368 yards and two TDs without an interception. The sophomore QB also rushed five times for 41 yards and one TD. Ralph Webb had a pair of rushing scores.
-- For the season, McCrary has a mediocre 4/5 TD-INT ratio. Webb is only averaging 3.3 YPC, rushing for 192 yards on 58 totes.
-- Vandy will be without its best defensive player for a second straight week. Nigel Bowden, who had a team-best 78 tackles in 2014, won't play due to concussion symptoms.
-- The 'over' is a perfect 3-0 for the Rebels. They lead the nation in scoring with a 64.0 PPG average. Their combined scores have averaged 84.3 PPG.
-- The 'under' is 2-0-1 for Vandy.
-- Kickoff is slated for 7:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPNU.
**Kentucky at Missouri**
-- As of Friday afternoon, most books had Kentucky (2-1 SU, 1-2 ATS) listed as a three-point favorite with a total of 45. Gamblers can back the Tigers on the money line for a +125 return (risk $100 to win $125).
-- Missouri (3-0 SU, 0-3 ATS) has been killing its backers and has been unimpressive in wins vs. SE Missouri St. (34-3), at Arkansas St. (27-20) and vs. UConn (9-6). On the bright side, however, the defense ranks fourth in nation in total defense, third in pass defense and fifth in scoring defense (9.7 PPG).
-- There's also reason for optimism with the offense since RB Russell Hansbrough is slated to return to the starting lineup after sitting out against the Huskies. Hansbrough sprained his ankle in the first half of the season opener and has been limited to only seven carries. Hansbrough rushed for 1,084 yards and 10 TDs while averaging 5.3 YPC last year.
-- Junior QB Maty Mauk has been inconsistent, connecting on just 52.5 percent of his passes for 474 yards with a 5/4 TD-INT ratio. He has rushed 25 times for 96 yards and one TD.
-- Kentucky got a last-minute score to pull out a 40-33 win over UL-Lafayette in the season opener. Then in Week 2, the Wildcats opened SEC play by upsetting South Carolina 26-22 in Columbia. However, with a packed house at newly renovated Commonwealth Stadium last weekend, Mark Stoops's squad lost to Florida for the 29th consecutive year. The Gators won 14-9 as 3.5-point road 'chalk.'
-- As a home favorite under Stoops, UK has compiled a 5-2 ATS ledger.
-- Gary Pinkel's team had covered the number in nine straight road games until going to Jonesboro two weeks ago. The Tigers failed to take the cash as 10-point favorites at Arkansas St.
-- Since joining the SEC in 2012, Missouri has won all three head-to-head meetings against UK both SU and ATS. In the 2013 encounter in Lexington, the Tigers cruised to a 48-17 win as 14-point road favorites. The 'under' has gone 2-1 in the three encounters.
-- The 'under' is 3-0 for the Tigers, who have seen their games average a combined score of 33.0 PPG.
-- The 'under' is 2-1 for UK, 1-1 in its home outings.
-- The SEC Network will have the telecast at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.
**B.E.'s Bonus Nuggets**
-- LSU will be in a letdown spot when it travels to the Carrier Dome to face Syracuse at noon Eastern. The Bayou Bengals smashed Auburn 45-21 last week behind a sensational performance from Leonard Fournette, who produced 228 rushing yards and three TDs on just 19 carries. Brandon Harris ran for 66 yards and two score on eight carries, and the sophomore signal caller also had a TD pass without being intercepted.
-- LSU is 15-13-2 ATS as a road favorite since Les Miles took over in Baton Rouge. The Tigers are favored by 24 over the 'Cuse.
-- Auburn will be looking to avenge a 38-23 loss at Mississippi St. when its SEC West rivals come to The Plains for a Saturday night showdown. ESPN2 will have the broadcast at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. Gus Malzahn has benched QB Jeremy Johnson in favor of redshirt freshman Drew Smith, who will be taking his first collegiate snap when he steps onto the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium against the Bulldogs. As of late Friday afternoon, most spots had Auburn favored by 2.5 with a total of 58.5.
-- Georgia is a 54.5-point home favorite vs. Southern. The Bulldogs have Alabama on deck. The Westgate SuperBook has UGA installed as a 1.5-point home favorite against the Crimson Tide.
-- Alabama will host ULM as a 38-point home 'chalk.' When the Warhawks last visited Bryant-Denny Stadium, they captured an upset win over Nick Saban's first 'Bama squad in 2007.
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