Category Archives: SEC football

Early Tennessee football lines show Vols as heavy underdogs

Tennessee opens the season on Aug. 31 against Chuckie Keeton and Utah State.

KNOXVILLE, TennesseeEarly lines on eight Tennessee games indicate that Las Vegas oddsmakers have little optimism for the Vols in 2014.

Tennessee opponents are favored in seven of the eight games released by the Golden Nugget as part of their annual early lines.

Here they are:

UT (+19) at Oklahoma
UT (+17) at Georgia
Florida at UT (+4.5)
UT (+12) at Ole Miss
Alabama at UT (+20)
UT (+18) at South Carolina
Missouri at UT (+4)
UT (-3) at Vanderbilt

Interestingly, roughly one-fourth of the 200 games handicapped by the Golden Nugget had line movements after their initial release to reflect betting trends. But only one Tennessee game was adjusted: Georgia is now favored by 16 points, down from 17. In other words, it doesn’t appear the public is flocking to bet on Tennessee.

Of course, UT will likely be favored in the four games not listed.

If you’re inclined to optimism, think of it this way: The Vols must only steal only one upset after winning the five games in which they will be favored to become bowl eligible.

If you’re inclined to pessimism, the rest of this blog is for you.

A 19-point spread translates to a 2.7 percent chance of winning against Oklahoma. Or just an 11.45 percent chance at Georgia.

For the sake of this simulation, we’ll give UT a 6.5-point edge against Utah State and an 8-point advantage against Arkansas State and Kentucky. We’re giving the Vols a 99.95 percent chance of victory against Chattanooga.

Spin those figures through my simulator 1,000 times and this is what you get:

That’s a 32 percent chance of winning at least six games and making a bowl, a 31 percent chance of having the same record as last year and a 37 percent chance of being worse.

I’ll update the simulator with new numbers as the season goes on.

Think some of the odds are way off? Let me know.

49 SEC players were drafted by NFL teams this month, but 4 teams didn’t take any

Ja’Wuan James was one of 49 SEC players drafted (AP photo, J. Pat Carter)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — My radio colleague Vince Ferrara has written up a comprehensive rundown on the 49 SEC players drafted by NFL teams and where they fit on their new clubs.

He tackles everyone from Jadeveon Clowney, No. 1, to Michael Sam, the 49th pick from the SEC and the 249th overall.

Here’s another interesting tidbit: The Houston Texans took five SEC players, including Clowney, and the St. Louis Rams drafted four, including Sam. Seattle, Miami, Cincinnati and Kansas City had three each.

Four teams — Dallas, San Diego, Minnesota and the N.Y. Jets — didn’t have any.

Read the complete breakdown here.

SEC meetings in Destin get underway today

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — SEC coaches are in Destin, Fla., this week for the league’s annual spring meeting.

Coaches have already done plenty of meeting with SEC commissioner Mike Slive in recent months, so the agenda should be light this week.

One issue in particular has already been resolved. Let’s let Les Miles tell it:

Miles, of course, was among the coaches displeased by the SEC’s decision to maintain its current 8-game format. LSU is stuck with Florida as its permanent cross-divisional opponent each season.

So what is on the agenda this week, aside from plenty of time on the beach or the golf course? Seth Emerson has a good summary here.

The big buzzword right now is autonomy. The five football power conferences are flexing their muscles and the NCAA appears willing to relinquish some control to those programs (like the SEC) that are on a different revenue plane than their peers.

There could also be some continued chatter over rules. Remember the Bret Bielema-Gus Malzahn tiff? Let’s hope they save some fighting words for SEC Media Days in July.

Here’s one not-so-optimistic projection for Vols in 2014

The Vols during a practice at Neyland Stadium this spring (photo by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — In 2013, most preseason predictions for Tennessee seemed to fall between 5-7 and 7-5. (I split the difference and picked 6-6).

With an equally tough schedule and plenty of roster turnover in 2014, I expect most picks this summer will fall in that same range.

However, there’s already an outlier, and it’s not a good one for fans trying to be optimistic in their outlook for 2014.

Football Outsiders post-spring projections have the Vols going 4-8 overall and 1-7 in the SEC. (The full post is available only for ESPN subscribers).

The complete formula for the projections is proprietary, but here’s how Football Outsiders describes it in the post: “Factors include five-year program ratings, returning starters, recruiting success and quarterback reliance — statistical indicators of teams that may take a step forward or step back next season.”

The projection model expects solid seasons from South Carolina, Georgia and — perhaps surprisingly — Missouri in the SEC East. Less surprisingly, the model has Alabama, LSU and Auburn atop the West.

I’m much more optimistic about Florida having a bounce-back year than the Football Outsiders model seems to be. And I’m probably less convinced that Missouri will be a major factor in the SEC East.

Football Outsiders has some very cool metrics for both NFL and college football that are worth checking out.

Butch Jones on Alabama rivalry: ‘It’s our DNA’

Butch Jones after practice earlier this month (photos by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee coach Butch Jones said his main concern about the future of SEC scheduling was preserving the Vols’ annual rivalry game against Alabama.

In that sense, the plan announced this week was a victory.

“I was very excited we were able to maintain the Alabama-UT rivalry,” Jones said. “That’s in our DNA….That was the big thing.”

Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart had favored a nine-game conference schedule, but SEC presidents voted to stick with the current plan of six games against divisional opponents, one game against a permanent cross-divisional rival and one game against a rotating cross-divisional opponent.

Jones said he recognized there were complications to either an eight-game or nine-game plan. He’s just happy the final plan preserved the Alabama series.

“In terms of scheduling — eight games, nine games, I really don’t think there is any perfect solution,” he said. “We have to do what’s best for the conference, as we continue to move forward, and I support that. This big thing for us is being able to maintain the rivalry with Alabama.”

Potential Vols’ game in Charlotte in 2018 still unannounced

Dave Hart (photo by Adam Brimer)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The potential Tennessee-West Virginia football game at Charlotte in 2018 that was reportedly close to being “finalized” four weeks ago has yet to be announced.

Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart declined to comment on the report or the potential game in an interview this week with the News Sentinel’s Ben Frederickson.

Any future neutral site game, Hart said, would be announced when the contract is completed.

Regardless, the Vols-Mountaineers matchup — if it takes place — would fit the profile of games that Hart is seeking.

But the recent decision by the SEC presidents to maintain the current schedule format should have little impact on UT’s scheduling goals. Tennessee, like most SEC schools, already schedules one high-profile non-conference game each year. That “high-profile” game will essentially become a league mandate in 2016, when every SEC team will be required to schedule one game against a team from the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 or ACC.

“For us, that’s how we’ve been doing business. And for most people in our league. Not everybody,” Hart said. “For the high majority of people in the SEC, that has been the standard. Now it will be required that everyone do that.”

Hart, who has favored a nine-game conference schedule, didn’t win that battle. But he was pleased that the league “reaffirmed” its commitment to traditional cross-divisional rivalries like Tennessee-Alabama and Georgia-Auburn.

“In our case we will maintain one of the most historic rivalries in the history, throughout all of college football, with Tennessee-Alabama,” he said. “I have been an outspoken proponent for every bit of two years on playing nine league games. But the vote was not there. So we are moving in unison with everyone else toward the 6-1-1 (format) and staying with eight league games.”