SEC: Gerald Jones

SEC mailbag: Can Georgia win the East?

February, 11, 2011
2/11/11
6:55
PM ET
I’m here for you, to answer all of your questions and weigh in on whatever is on your mind in this week’s SEC mailbag:

Wayne in Leesburg, Ga., writes: Chris, what do you think are Georgia's chances of winning the SEC East in 2011? I know they had a down year last year (ifs and buts), but they could have just as easily finished 10-3. If they can weather the storm early against Boise State and South Carolina, they could be 7-0 heading to Jacksonville against the Gators. I know there’s no A.J. Green, but they look to me on paper to be deeper next year. Your thoughts?

Chris Low: I was one of those predicting big things for the Bulldogs this past season, so forgive me if I’m a little gun shy about stepping out there too far in 2011. I agree that the talent is in place to make a run, and the East should be pretty open again. I’m still not sure if the right personnel is in place to effectively run a 3-4 defense, although landing 340-pound junior college nose guard John Jenkins helps. Aaron Murray is exactly the kind of quarterback I’d like to build around if I were a coach, and it sounds like Isaiah Crowell won’t have to wait long for his first carry. The Bulldogs need better play from their offensive line next season and need to tackle more consistently. And, yes, if they get past Boise State and South Carolina (both games being playing in the state of Georgia), I like their chances to be right there in the East race. They just need to come out on the plus side of those ifs and buts.


Patrick in Winson-Salem, N.C., writes: I know you probably don't even care any more when people say that you hate on Auburn because I’m sure you get tons of mail about it. I’m not sure if you do since I did like some of the blogs on Auburn earlier this season, but it is getting old with the constant reminder of whether or not the national championship will get taken away because of Cecil Newton. Every time I think we have gotten past that, at least until more "evidence" comes around, which I don't believe it will, some righteous writer posts a story about it from either Sports Illustrated or ESPN. You (writers in general) don’t seem to want to talk about the good and all the players that had nothing to do with this or the reasons why it might not be true. As Auburn linebacker Josh Bynes said, "You guys don't want to hear the truth." Lets start reporting on facts, like how Auburn beat Oregon 22-19 for the national championship and not on speculation. THANKS WDE!

Chris Low: I can assure you I don’t hate or hate on Auburn. The Tigers’ officials and players were a classy bunch out in Arizona, and it was a blast dealing with them leading up to their national championship. I can also assure you that I’ve gone out of my way to accentuate the positive with their program, and there was a lot of positive to accentuate this season. The Cam Newton story is simply the one most of the Auburn fans remember, and that’s just part of the business. I get that. I also understand how Auburn fans are sick and tired of hearing about what might happen in the future. The reality is that none of us know, and I have my doubts (like you) whether anything will come of the NCAA’s investigation. At the same time, until the NCAA notifies Auburn that it’s a closed matter, my advice to Auburn fans is to enjoy what was a magical ride in 2010 and don’t get caught up in what might or might not happen down the road.


Danny at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., writes: Chris, I wrote you yesterday about the 2009 college football season during my deployment to Afghanistan. I have some pretty fun pictures that I made and would love to share, but don't know how I could send them to you. My girlfriend (now my wife) sent me an Alabama flag, and I built a flagpole out of 2 x 4's. We did a "raising of the flag" reminiscent of the Marines’ Iwo Jima flag raising. The picture is great and sits on my desk. Anyway, thought I'd share. If you'd like to see them, let me know how I could send them to you.

Chris Low: Danny, great story, and I’d love to see the pictures. You can email me at espnclow@aol.com. Most of all, thanks from the bottom of my heart for your service to our country.


James in Walnut, Miss., writes: I got a question. Please tell me how you can’t have Mississippi State ranked in the top 15 and second in the SEC West?

Chris Low: My first thought would be because the West will be loaded again next season, and while I think Mississippi State will be a very good football team, I’m not ready to slide the Bulldogs ahead of Alabama, LSU and Arkansas (in that order). Not that it matters for 2011, but Mississippi State did lose to all three of those teams this past season. In fact, the only West team Mississippi State beat was Ole Miss. Still, I think the Bulldogs will be a tough out for everybody they play again next season and will be knocking on the door of nine wins again. In my early 2011 SEC power rankings, I had Mississippi State No. 5 overall, and I think that’s more than fair. In fact, I’ve heard from a few Auburn, Florida and Georgia fans wanting to know how I could have Mississippi State ranked ahead of their teams. Hey, that’s life in the SEC.


Wmob in Atlanta writes: I take it from your lack of mention that you believe Jacoby Brissett doesn't have a chance in the Gators’ quarterback equation next year.

Chris Low: I wouldn’t go that far. I was mostly breaking down battles this spring and weighing in on those guys who would be around for spring ball. With a new offense and new offensive coordinator, I wouldn’t rule out anybody at Florida. I do, however, believe it would be a real long shot to think that Brissett could win the job despite not having the benefit of spring practice and not arriving on campus until this summer. That almost never happens in this league with a true freshman at the quarterback position. Could he play his way into some snaps as the season progresses? Absolutely. But if he’s playing early for the Gators next season, that’s probably not a very good sign, because it would mean that John Brantley and freshman Jeff Driskel didn’t wow anybody over this spring and were even less impressive during preseason practice.


Jose in Aiken, S.C., writes: If Connor Shaw beats out Stephen Garcia, could there be a chance Garcia transfers?

Chris Low: I don't see it. Garcia will be a senior, and he’s already used up his redshirt season. Even if Shaw wins the job, we’ve seen with Steve Spurrier that he’s almost always going to experiment a little and play two quarterbacks. Garcia had his best season a year ago. He just didn’t finish that well with the five interceptions in his last two games. It ought to be an interesting spring, because I think the Head Ball Coach is serious about giving Shaw a legitimate chance to win the job.


Kelly in Nashville, Tenn., writes: What do you think about the Gerald Jones story at Tennessee?

Chris Low: You’re obviously talking about the chatter out there that Jones supposedly helped Auburn assistant coach Trooper Taylor steer some prospects to Auburn and away from Tennessee. First of all, Jones’ eligibility is up, and he’s hardly the first player that has gone to bat for a former coach of his on the recruiting trail, even if that coach does happen to be at another school now. Where I would have a problem with it is if Jones bashed Tennessee. You simply don’t do that to your teammates and coaches. Be honest and be truthful, but don’t engage in tearing down the school that just paid for your education. I don’t know that he did that, but you can bet that he and Tennessee coach Derek Dooley have had a few conversations in the past couple of days. The reality is that players build up relationships with certain assistant coaches and those relationships endure no matter where that coach goes.

SEC lunch links

February, 10, 2011
2/10/11
12:37
PM ET
Checking in on what's making headlines around the SEC:

Honoring the SEC's best interviews

January, 8, 2011
1/08/11
11:33
AM ET
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.-- The local Auburn beat writers do a neat thing every year by selecting an Auburn player as the “Good Guy Award” winner.

This year, senior middle linebacker Josh Bynes won the award, which is meant to recognize a player who is consistently congenial and professional in his interactions with the media.

I couldn’t agree more. Bynes is always willing to do interviews. He has fun doing them and gives good, honest, insightful answers. He’s represented Auburn University extremely well during his career.

We in the media too often get hung up on those athletes who aren’t cooperative or go out of their way to be distant or boring in interviews. And in some cases, guys simply don’t like doing it, which is perfectly understandable.

But why not recognize those guys who are really good interviews, guys who always have something interesting to say and genuinely enjoy the banter with the media?

I agree with the Auburn beat writers that Bynes is certainly one of those guys in the SEC.

Here are 10 others, listed alphabetically, that I would put at the top of my list this season:
  • Kentucky receiver Randall Cobb
  • Alabama offensive guard Barrett Jones
  • Tennessee receiver Gerald Jones
  • Ole Miss defensive end Kentrell Lockett
  • Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy
  • LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson
  • Florida center Mike Pouncey
  • LSU receiver Russell Shepard
  • Vanderbilt linebacker John Stokes
  • Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams
North Carolina Tar Heels (7-5) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (6-6)

Dec. 30, 6:40 p.m. ET (ESPN)

North Carolina take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: North Carolina, which began the season ranked No. 18 in the Associated Press preseason poll, had much higher hopes this season, but considering how injuries and suspensions decimated the roster, an appearance in a bowl game is not an accomplishment those within the program take lightly. Carolina is in a bowl game for the third straight season, the school’s longest streak since going to seven straight bowl games from 1992-98. UNC and Tennessee had previously agreed to play in 2011 and 2012, but Tennessee canceled the series.

UNC returned all but two starters on defense and was expected to contend for the ACC title in coach Butch Davis’ fourth season, but the Tar Heels lost 14 players for at least one game and seven for the entire season because of a two-pronged NCAA investigation. UNC started the season with back-to-back losses, but a four-game winning streak revived their bowl hopes.

Backups have played integral roles for Carolina, but veteran quarterback T.J. Yates has been one of the most improved players in the country this year and at the heart of the team’s success. He is No. 2 in the conference in passing efficiency and No. 2 in passing average per game.


Tennessee take by SEC blogger Chris Low: Tennessee was 0-for-October earlier this season and staring at a 2-6 record. Granted, the competition got a lot easier, but the Vols rebounded nicely under first-year coach Derek Dooley to earn a trip to the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.

Tennessee’s surge here at the end of the season started with Dooley turning the keys of the offense over to true freshman quarterback Tyler Bray, and the cool Californian responded by throwing 12 touchdown passes in his four starts.

The Vols also have one of the better group of receivers in the SEC. Seniors Denarius Moore and Gerald Jones have both had big seasons, but true freshmen Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers have also come on during this winning streak.

All told, Tennessee has 21 first-year players in its two-deep, and at times, had three freshmen playing on the offensive line. The Vols have also been a lot better on defense these past four games and kept teams out of the end zone.

To get to seven wins and finish a game above .500 would be a real accomplishment for this team and would match last season’s 7-6 record -- when it looked like the closest the Vols would get to a bowl game back in October was watching one on television.

SEC lunch links

October, 6, 2010
10/06/10
12:02
PM ET
Making the rounds in the SEC on hump day:

Vols' Jones: Peterson is not Superman

September, 29, 2010
9/29/10
10:52
AM ET
Chalk this up to something you don’t hear every day, at least not publicly, from an opposing receiver getting ready to go up against LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson.

Tennessee’s Gerald Jones, who missed the Vols' last three games after breaking a bone in his hand in the opener, said he’s like a “kid at a candy store” in anticipation of his return to the lineup and his matchup with Peterson.

“I watched film on them for two hours (Monday) because I was so eager,” said Jones, who led the Vols in receptions (46) and receiving yards (680) last season. “I am so ready for No. 7 (Peterson). I am ready for him. I watched him for a couple of hours (Monday).

“To be honest, I think a lot of people fear him because he’s so big. He’s 6-2, 220. He’s a pretty good athlete. He has his weaknesses, too. He’s not Superman. I’m going to give him my all, and it’s going to be a battle come Saturday.”

Actually, Peterson is closer to 6-foot than he is 6-2. He is pushing 220 pounds, and he’s a little better than a “pretty good athlete.” In fact, he might be the most explosive athlete in college football.

He’s been known to talk it up on the field, too. That’s a big part of his game.

So the Jones-Peterson matchup on Saturday at Tiger Stadium could make for some pretty good entertainment.

Vols get set to go into great unknown

September, 28, 2010
9/28/10
10:11
AM ET
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley won’t take the maximum 70 players to LSU this weekend.

The Vols were already well under the scholarship limit in terms of players, and they’ve incurred several injuries in their first four games. Dooley said there would probably be approximately 66 players on the trip, and he joked that 30 of those had never been on a road trip at Tennessee before.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen,” Dooley said. “Just think about when you got in the car with your four buddies and you’ve never been on a road trip before and you hit the highway. Man, you don’t know what’s going to happen because you don’t know these guys. That’s what we got.”

Dooley, who was an assistant at LSU for five seasons, said there’s no way to simulate Tiger Stadium, although he quipped that he might have painted the Eye of the Tiger in the middle of the Vols’ practice field this week had the blue practice field worked for Oregon State last week.

He also doesn’t plan to hold a workout at Tiger Stadium on Friday just so his players can get a feel for what the place is like. That’s because you don’t get a feel for what Tiger Stadium is like when the place is empty.

“They say go to the stadium because you get a feel for it,” Dooley said. “So you go, and it's real quiet. You see the field and you say, ‘Boy, this is a nice stadium,’ and you do your little walk-through,” Dooley said. “And then the next time you come out, it’s like a monster that came to life.

“I finally said, ‘We might as well just show up when it's a monster …”

Nobody on this Tennessee team has ever played in Tiger Stadium, although the Vols won in their last trip to Baton Rouge. They rallied for a 30-27 win in overtime during the 2005 season in a game that was played on Monday night because of Hurricane Rita.

While several Tennessee players are out with injuries, Dooley is hopeful of getting senior receiver Gerald Jones back this week. Jones has been cleared to practice after being sidelined since the opener with a broken bone in his hand. Dooley gave the team an extra day of rest Monday to try and help heal up some of the injuries.

Vols may lean on young receivers

September, 6, 2010
9/06/10
6:56
PM ET
Tennessee likes its young receiving talent.

The Vols may get an extensive look at those youngsters this Saturday against No. 11 Oregon.

Senior Gerald Jones, the Vols' leading returning receiver from a year ago, suffered a broken bone in his hand against Tennessee-Martin and will be out the next 2-3 weeks. Also, senior receiver Denarius Moore injured his ankle in the opener and is questionable for the Oregon game. Moore was in a protective walking boot Monday at practice. He scored a pair of long touchdowns in the opener.

Sophomore Zach Rogers is slated to start in place of Jones, but true freshmen Da'Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter may also have to play increased roles. Both were highly recruited players expected to contribute right away.

SEC lunch links

September, 1, 2010
9/01/10
12:05
PM ET
A check of what's making news around the SEC:

Spring superlatives: Tennessee

May, 25, 2010
5/25/10
9:30
AM ET
Where were the Vols the strongest and where were they the weakest coming out of the spring? Today, we’ll take a look.

Strongest position: Receivers/tight ends

Key returnees: Senior receiver Gerald Jones (46 catches, 680 yards, four touchdowns), senior receiver Denarius Moore (40 catches, 540 yards, seven touchdowns), senior tight end Luke Stocker (29 catches, 389 yards, five touchdowns), sophomore receiver Marsalis Teague (13 catches, 147 yards, two touchdowns)

Key departures: Receiver Quintin Hancock (27 catches, 298 yards, two touchdowns), receiver Nu’Keese Richardson (eight catches, 102 yards, one touchdown)

The skinny: Even though the Vols will be starting a quarterback who’s never thrown a pass in an SEC game, they return a collection of pass catchers who’ve played a lot of quality football in this league. Jones and Moore combined for 11 touchdown catches last season. Jones is at his best after the catch, and Moore is the Vols’ best deep threat. Both players have had their issues with injuries, but should be healthy to start next season. Look for the Vols to get more out Teague in 2010, too. He started quickly a year ago, but sort of disappeared. That’s not uncommon for a true freshman. Whoever emerges at quarterback, Matt Simms or Tyler Bray, will want to keep tabs on where Stocker is, especially on key downs. He runs good routes, knows how to get open and is one of the better all-around tight ends in the league. There could be some more help on the way, too, when true freshman Da’Rick Rogers arrives later this summer. He’s a big receiver with speed and great leaping ability and should work his way into the rotation right away.

Weakest position: Offensive line

Key returnees: Senior guard Jarrod Shaw, sophomore tackle Dallas Thomas

Key departures: Tackle Chris Scott, tackle Aaron Douglas, guard Jacques McClendon, guard Cory Sullins, center Cody Sullins

The skinny: There was some promise shown in the spring by several of the Vols’ younger offensive linemen, including true freshman tackle Ja’Wuan James and redshirt freshman guard JerQuari Schofield. Both are penciled in as starters going into the fall. First-year Tennessee coach Derek Dooley is excited about his young talent up front. He just wishes he didn’t have to play so many young guys so soon. James will be the starter at right tackle, while sophomore Dallas Thomas will step in at left tackle. Douglas probably would have shifted over from right tackle to left tackle following a Freshman All-America season a year ago, but left the program in the spring and is transferring to a junior college. Shaw is the only guy up front with any meaningful experience, and all of his starts came at the beginning of last season. Incoming true freshman James Stone will also compete for immediate playing time once he arrives. Down the road, this has a chance to be a very good group. But it’s also a group that will pay the price next season that comes with being so inexperienced in the offensive line in this league.

Tennessee spring wrap

May, 4, 2010
5/04/10
6:30
AM ET
2009 overall record: 7-6

2009 conference record: 4-4

Returning starters

Offense: 4; Defense: 6; Kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

RB Tauren Poole, WR Gerald Jones, WR Denarius Moore, TE Luke Stocker, DE Chris Walker, DT Montori Hughes, LB Nick Reveiz, S Janzen Jackson

Key losses

QB Jonathan Crompton, RB Montario Hardesty, OT Chris Scott, OT Aaron Douglas, DT Dan Williams, LB Rico McCoy, CB Dennis Rogan, S Eric Berry

2009 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Montario Hardesty (1,345 yards)

Passing: Jonathan Crompton (2,800 yards)

Receiving: Gerald Jones* (680 yards)

Tackles: Rico McCoy (119)

Sacks: Chris Walker* (6)

Interceptions: Eric Berry, Wes Brown and Chris Walker* (2)

Spring answers

1. Poole of talent: Junior running back Tauren Poole proved this spring what most people on the team already knew (with the exception of former coach Lane Kiffin), and that is that he has what it takes to be a featured running back in this league. He broke a long run in just about every scrimmage, rarely goes down on the first hit and is hungry to show what he can do in the fall.

2. Dooley’s way: First-year coach Derek Dooley spent much of the spring establishing the way it was going to be under his regime. It’s the second straight spring the Vols have undergone a transition to a new coach. Last spring, it was Kiffin marking his turf. One of the priorities for Dooley and Co. this spring was finding out who could do what and who couldn’t do what for a Tennessee team that will be hurting for depth in 2010.

3. Replenishing the secondary: Sophomore safeties Janzen Jackson and Darren Myles Jr. both had big springs and will be the answer back there for the next two years. Answers for players the caliber of Eric Berry aren’t easy to come by, which is why it was so pleasing for the Vols to see Jackson and Myles make the number of plays they did. Now they both need to prove they can behave themselves off the field. Also keep an eye on junior Art Evans, who has the potential to be a very good shutdown cornerback in this league and comes highly endorsed by Berry.

Fall questions

1. Offensive line experience: Dooley sheds the best perspective on where the Vols are offensively when he asks if there’s ever been a team faced with having to replace all five starters on the offensive line, its top running back and its quarterback. The Vols will likely start two freshmen up front, Ja’Wuan James at tackle and JerQuari Schofield at guard, and another one, James Stone, could end up figuring into the rotation when he gets on campus. This is a unit that has some young talent, but will almost certainly struggle this first season.

2. Settling on a quarterback: Senior Nick Stephens left the program this spring after being demoted, leaving junior college newcomer Matt Simms and true freshman Tyler Bray to battle it out for the job. Simms, the younger brother of Chris Simms, is well-liked by his teammates and worked hard to establish himself this spring, but Bray may have a bigger upside. An extremely thin player, Bray looked good in the Vols’ Orange and White spring game and will almost certainly have to play some next season.

3. Kicking game issues: The Vols had so many holes to fill that the kicking game sort of got lost in the shuffle. But with so much inexperience on offense and defense, they have to be able to hold their own on special teams next season, or it could really get ugly. Given how shaky the kicking and punting looked this spring, incoming freshman Michael Palardy may end up doing all of the kicking in the fall. Palardy doesn’t arrive until this summer, but was rated as one of the top kicker prospects in the country.

Vols' seniors select teams for spring game

April, 15, 2010
4/15/10
11:37
AM ET
Tennessee's roster has been divided into two teams for Saturday's Orange and White spring game thanks to some intense "War Room" decisions by the Vols' seniors on Wednesday night.

The seniors drafted the two teams for Derek Dooley's first spring game, which kicks off Saturday at 2 p.m. at Neyland Stadium.

"Like the NFL draft, it will be interesting to see if some of the higher picks perform to their value," Dooley said.

At first glance, the White team looks a little stronger, especially on defense with tackles Montori Hughes and Marlon Walls and senior end Chris Walker. True freshman Tyler Bray will quarterback the White team, and he has the top offensive weapon from the spring in his backfield in junior running back Tauren Poole. The Vols' best defensive back, sophomore safety Janzen Jackson, is also a member of the White team.

The Orange team is led by quarterback Matt Simms, the favorite to win the job. Leading receiver Gerald Jones is also on the Orange team along with tight end Luke Stocker and starting offensive linemen Dallas Thomas and JerQuari Schofield.

Position superlatives: Tennessee

March, 30, 2010
3/30/10
9:00
AM ET
Today, we take a look at what should be the strongest and weakest positions for Tennessee entering the 2010 season:

Strongest position: Receiver/tight end

Key returnees: Gerald Jones, Denarius Moore, Marsalis Teague, Luke Stocker

Key departures: Quintin Hancock

The skinny: The Vols’ top three pass-catchers from a year ago are all back, and that includes Stocker, one of the better receiving tight ends in the league. Stocker thought about turning pro, but elected to return for his senior season. Moore led the Vols with seven touchdown catches. The threesome of Jones, Moore and Stocker combined for 16 touchdown receptions last season and will form the nucleus of Tennessee’s passing game in 2010, although they will have to get used to a new quarterback. Moore has terrific speed and gives the Vols a legitimate deep threat. Jones is versatile enough to move around and play different spots. One of the Vols’ highest-rated signees, Da’Rick Rogers, will be difficult to keep off the field.

Weakest position: Offensive line

Key returnees: Jarrod Shaw, Dallas Thomas

Key departures: Chris Scott, Aaron Douglas, Jacques McClendon, Cody Sullins, Cory Sullins, Vlad Richard

The skinny: An already challenging situation for the Vols up front got a lot worse when Douglas went into first-year coach Derek Dooley’s office last week and asked for a release. Douglas, who had moved from tight end to right tackle the year before, was going to be the anchor of the line. But with him gone, the Vols essentially will be starting over. Shaw started three games last season at guard, all during the first part of the season. He’s the only player with any meaningful experience returning. Redshirt freshman JerQuari Schofield at guard and true freshman Ja’Wuan James at tackle are both working with the first unit right now. Sophomore Dallas Thomas is the likely left tackle. As inexperienced as the Vols will be up front, depth will be an even bigger problem. They can’t afford to get anybody hurt.

October doesn't look so gloomy for Vols

October, 13, 2009
10/13/09
4:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


This week, Tennessee’s football team gets a chance to catch its breath, and Lane Kiffin gets a chance to do one of the things he does best -- recruit.

The Vols are off this Saturday after their 45-19 thrashing of Georgia last week, and all of a sudden, those fears of going 0-for-October have been replaced with renewed hope.
 
 Jim Brown/US Presswire
 Lane Kiffin and the Vols have an extra week to prepare for Alabama.


Maybe there will be an Octoberfest for the Vols after all.

“We love this feeling we’ve got right now,” Tennessee junior receiver Gerald Jones told reporters Monday. “Not only did we beat a team like Georgia, but we beat them by a large margin. I think we love this feeling, and we’re not going to let it slip up.”

The Vols (3-3, 1-2) put it all together in their best all-around performance of the season against the Bulldogs. And if they were any better on special teams, that game would have been even more lopsided than it was.

Even in its three losses this season, Tennessee has hung around and played well enough on defense to still be in the game in the second half.

But you never got the sense that the Vols were potent enough offensively to be a threat against the upper-tier teams in this league … until that Georgia game.

Jonathan Crompton had a career day against the Bulldogs with 310 yards passing and four touchdowns. He’s not going to play like that the rest of the way, but it’s also reasonable to think that he’s not going to play as poorly as he did in September, either, when he threw eight interceptions in four games.

Ifs and buts are just that, but what would Tennessee’s record be right now had Crompton been merely serviceable in those games?

He’s played better the past two weeks and should have some momentum going to Alabama in two weeks. With a competent passing game, Tennessee becomes a team nobody wants to face the second half of the season.

Winning at Alabama is a long shot regardless of how well Crompton plays at quarterback, but that South Carolina game on Oct. 31 in Knoxville looms as large as ever.

There were four home games that were critical for the Vols coming into this season -- UCLA, Auburn, Georgia and South Carolina. Splitting those four games would almost certainly mean that this team could get to at least seven wins and go to a bowl game.

The Vols could get that split by beating the Gamecocks, which would be a stark reversal from how the season ended a year ago.

It was like a funeral around Rocky Top last November. But there’s hope on the horizon as the Vols point toward the second half of the season this year.

A bowl game, any bowl game, would be huge for this team. If for nothing else, just to get the extra practice time.

We saw how Kiffin’s Vols handled that patch of adversity in September. They kept fighting and kept believing.

We’ll see now how they handle a little success.

Lunchtime links: Green still the man for Dogs

September, 17, 2009
9/17/09
12:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


A glimpse of what's making headlines around the SEC:
  • Auburn coach Gene Chizik might be satisfied with being 2-0, but he's not necessarily satisfied with the way the Tigers are playing.
  • Quarterback Stephen Garcia and the South Carolina offense still have a few kinks to work out, but there's definitely been progress.

SPONSORED HEADLINES