Tag Archives: South Carolina Gamecocks

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.

Ranking SEC teams in recruiting over last 4 years: Vols fare better than you might expect

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KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Now that National Signing Day is in the books, let’s take a step back and look at recruiting in the SEC over the last four years.

These are the players — if they’re still around — who will have the greatest impact on a team’s success in 2014.

The numbers don’t lie: Alabama has dominated the recruiting game just as it has on the field.

That’s not a surprise. But Tennessee’s ranking relative to the league average might be better than many expected.

We used the 247Sports Composite rankings in order to get a broad perspective from all the major recruiting services. We also wanted to go beyond a simple ranking to see the relative strength of each class as it compared to the rest of the league.

A few takeaways:

1. Tennessee’s recruiting ratings are above the league average over the last four years both collectively and individually. The Vols have been above the league average in three of the last four years.

2. On the negative side, the Vols suffered serious attrition in the 2012 class. Some of it was natural (Cordarrelle Patterson) but there were also plenty of washouts. Also, some of the higher rated players from 2011 and 2012 simply haven’t lived up to expectations.

3. Florida, despite last year’s debacle, still has plenty of talent. If they can fix a few issues from 2013, they could be right back in the title race.

4. Auburn can still lean on several solid classes and has every reason to expect to be in the mix for the SEC championship again.

5. Texas A&M has put together three consecutive solid classes that should help mitigate the departure of Johnny Manziel.

6. The bottom of the conference is largely what you would expect. Despite recent improvements in recruiting from Kentucky and Vanderbilt, relative to the rest of the league, their ratings are still low.

7. Missouri’s recruiting may not be impressive on paper, but it’s worth remember that the Tigers won the SEC East in 2013 using classes that were ranked near the bottom of the league.

Mizzou’s case, of course, is why factors like retention and development and coaching still matter.

But if we were to judge the 2014 season solely by its inputs, here’s what the standings would look like. Just for fun, we’ll use the four-year relative score (with 100 being average) and give 10 points to the home team in each game.

SEC East

1. Florida, 7-1

2. Georgia, 7-1

3. South Carolina, 5-3

4. Tennessee, 3-5

5. Missouri, 2-6

6. Kentucky, 2-6

7. Vanderbilt, 0-8

SEC West

1. Alabama, 8-0

2. Auburn, 6-2

3. LSU, 5-3

4. Texas A&M, 4-4

5. Ole Miss, 3-5

6. Mississippi State, 2-6

7. Arkansas, 2-6

It would be hard to imagine Missouri and Vanderbilt plummeting so quickly, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Florida make a dramatic rebound.

Before you prepare your hate mail, remember this is just a “fun” excercise that does not necessarily reflect my actual opinion, nor does it have any effect on the real world.

Vols going with all-orange uniforms today vs. South Carolina

This image of all-orange uniforms was tweeted by UT this morning.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee will wear orange jerseys and orange pants for the first time since 2009.

The Vols announced the news on their Twitter account this morning.

For what it’s worth, the Vols lost to Auburn, 26-22, on Oct. 3, 2009, the last time this outfit was worn.

Tennessee donned an all-gray look two weeks ago against Georgia.

South Carolina Gamecocks Q&A: View from the other side

Associated Press photo

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — When South Carolina faces Tennessee on Saturday, they’ll be coming off their most complete game of the season.

So will Tennessee.

That adds some intrigue to the game between the Vols (3-3, 0-2 SEC) and 11th-ranked Gamecocks (5-1, 3-1) at Neyland Stadium (TV: ESPN, noon).

I asked Ryan Wood of the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier to help me out with a Q&A about the Gamecocks. Ryan and I overlapped on the Auburn beat for a bit in 2011 before we both moved to the SEC East.  You can read his blog on South Carolina here and follow him on Twitter @rwood_SC.

Want to read my responses to his questions? They’re right here.

1. Even Tennessee players said they noticed a dramatic difference in South Carolina’s defense in the Arkansas game. What clicked? 

South Carolina finally showed up for the fourth quarter. Truth is, the Gamecocks defense has been pretty good for stretches in every game this season, but they allowed 51 combined fourth-quarter points against Vanderbilt, Central Florida and Kentucky. That’s more than any other SEC team allowed in the season’s first six weeks – total.

Also, it must be said, playing Arkansas’ offense was a major benefit. When the opposing quarterback completes 4-of-12 passes for 30 yards, you’re going to look like one of the better defenses in the nation. That should bode well for USC this week. Statistically, Tennessee’s offense isn’t doing much better.

2. Did the win over Arkansas return Carolina’s expectations to where they were in August – competing to win the SEC East and, if things fall into place, a spot in the national title picture?

I don’t know about the national title – there are eight undefeated and two one-loss teams ranked higher in the AP poll – but certainly South Carolina returned to the middle of the divisional race. This after I thought it had no chance following the Georgia loss in Week 2.

At Arkansas, USC had its largest blowout against a fellow SEC opponent not named Kentucky, so there was a ton of confidence gained. But it was a perfect Saturday for the Gamecocks, beyond what happened in Fayetteville. Florida lost to LSU. Georgia lost to Missouri. Missouri lost starting quarterback James Franklin. Everything that needed to happen for USC to climb back into the race happened. Now, USC needs Georgia to lose one more game – not out of the question when the Bulldogs resemble the walking dead – and it will control its own destiny.

 3. What is South Carolina’s biggest vulnerability — or question that the team hasn’t sufficiently answered at midseason?

I know it’s cliché, but with such a young team – especially on defense – this week is all about how USC handles success. It proved last week it can deal with controversy and adversity, wasting Arkansas after a week of Jadeveon Clowney headlines. That’s no longer an issue. Now, can USC avoid overlooking a struggling Tennessee team with what could be a huge game at Missouri looming the next week? I’m really not sure.

On the field, USC’s biggest problem matches Tennessee’s weakness. The Gamecocks’ pass defense ranks fourth in the SEC, but that’s pretty misleading after giving up only 30 passing yards last week. There have been serious breakdowns in the secondary, especially late in games. Of course, Tennessee has serious quarterback problems and ranks second-to-last – ahead of only Arkansas – in passing offense, so I doubt the Vols take advantage.

4. You’re relatively new to the South Carolina beat. Name one thing you learned about the team, the university, the city that you didn’t know before.

The spiders down here are the last, living dinosaurs. Seriously. They’re Satan’s pets. I was completely unprepared. But, I suppose you meant something more than my reservations about those horrid, eight-legged creatures.

I am struck at how much Columbia feels like a college town, despite its relative size. As you know, I arrived from Auburn, Ala., a town that literally wouldn’t exist without its university. Columbia isn’t to that degree. It has its business district, a heavy bank influence. But the entire city really is about its university, and it rallies around its football team. I’m not sure it’s always been that way in the past, but excitement around this program has been at an all-time high the past few seasons. I think the culture has changed around here, and Steve Spurrier is the biggest reason.

5. Who will win on Saturday and give a formula for a Tennessee upset.

If what I saw last week in Fayetteville was an aberration, perhaps it could be an interesting game Saturday. I’ll go out on a limb and say it wasn’t, and South Carolina wins by at least a couple touchdowns. This seems to be a game Tennessee is building up to. I think the Vols get there eventually. Butch Jones seems to be the right coach for the job. But they’re not ready yet.

I think the formula Saturday is very similar to what the Vols did against Georgia. If Tennessee can stay in the game early, preventing USC from distancing itself too much, Neyland Stadium will come alive in the second half. If the Vols can get something going with their passing game, maybe pick up a couple unconventional touchdowns, and be competitive entering the fourth quarter, they will have a chance at home. Of course, that’s a lot of “ifs.”

Attendance update: About 90,000 tickets sold for South Carolina game

Neyland Stadium (photo by Michael Patrick, News Sentinel)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The Vols had sold (or allocated to students or groups) about 90,000 tickets for Saturday’s game against No. 11 South Carolina as of Thursday afternoon.

Neyland Stadium has a capacity of 102,455.

Senior associate athletics director Chris Fuller said the early kickoff (the game starts at noon) and the fact that students are on fall break has contributed to the slower pace of sales.

South Carolina sold about 5,000 seats from its allotment, he said.

UT sold about 3,000 seats to students at area colleges — like Pellissippi State Community College — for $10 to help make up for the absence of UT students this week.

Since 2000, South Carolina has been better than Vols in SEC play

South Carolina’s football program is no longer a sleeping giant. (AP photo)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — When Tennessee won the national championship in 1998, the South Carolina Gamecocks were 1-11 overall and 0-8 in the SEC.

Since then, the Vols and Gamecocks have shared winning seasons only twice — in 2000 and 2001.

We delved deeper into that in a subscriber-only story on GoVolsXtra today. The underlying question is this: Are there are enough wins to go around in the increasingly competitive SEC East for both South Carolina and Tennessee to sustain success? Or will UT’s “rise to the top” have to coincide with South Carolina’s fall?

That might not be easy. South Carolina has been a competitive SEC program for more than a decade, since before the arrival of Steve Spurrier.

Since 2000, Tennessee has 56 SEC wins. South Carolina has 57.

A closer look at the 2nd half of Tennessee’s season: Can the Vols go 3-3, reach a bowl?

Butch Jones modeling the smokey gray today. #IRU

A post shared by Evan Woodbery (@evanwoodbery) on

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — At the midpoint of the season, now is a perfect time to reevaluate my preseason predictions.

Let’s see how I fared so far and determine if we need to tweak any of the predicted outcomes for the rest of the year.

At the risk of bragging, my August predictions have been pretty spot-on so far.

Aug. 31 vs. Austin Peay

Speculative line: UT by 45.

Actual line: UT by 49.

My prediction: UT, 45-7.

Actual score: UT, 45-0.

Sept. 7 vs. Western Kentucky

Speculative line: UT by 21.

Actual line: UT by 14.

My prediction: UT, 31-14.

Actual score: UT, 52-20.

Sept. 14  at Oregon

Oregon’s Autzen Stadium (photo by Evan Woodbery)

Speculative line: Oregon by 20.

Actual line: Oregon by 28.

My prediction: Oregon, 45-14

Actual score: Oregon, 59-14.

Sept. 21   @ Florida   

Speculative line: UF by 17.

Actual line: UF by 16.5

My prediction: Florida, 31-14.

Actual score: Florida, 31-17.

Sept. 28   vs. South Alabama

Speculative line: UT by 23.

Actual line: UT by 16.5.

My prediction: UT, 38-17

Actual score: UT, 31-24.

Oct. 5  vs. Georgia

The Vols lost in overtime to Georgia.

Speculative line: Georgia by 15

Actual line: Georgia by 13.5

My prediction: Georgia 35-28.

Actual score: Georgia 34-31, OT. (fixed earlier error)

(I’m using line information from VegasInsider, which may differ slightly from other sites. All lines are for informational/entertainment purposes ONLY.)

The rest of the schedule looks more difficult in some areas, but could be easier in others. South Carolina is difficult to figure, but still quite dangerous. Auburn and Missouri have exceeded expectations, although an injury to quarterback James Franklin could be devastating for Mizzou’s powerful offense. (Coach Gary Pinkel strongly disputed a report that Franklin would be out for the rest of the year).

What about the other James Franklin? Well, he and the Commodores are having a rough year, but the UT-Vandy meeting in Knoxville still promises to be an important and emotional meeting.

Here’s a look at the final six games, with both my August predictions and any changes I care to make.

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