Three & Out appears every Sunday and Wednesday in 2010 to give you three SEC thoughts, news and notes. In today's edition, we take a look at one of the SEC's forgotten teams, the Magnolia Bowl and the "resurgent" Tennessee Volunteers.
Has any team flown under the radar this season in the SEC more than the Arkansas Razorbacks?
With only two losses and riding a four-game winning streak, the Hogs are very much in contention for that illustrious BCS at-large spot and a trip to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. Sure, LSU and Alabama may be more attractive to the Sugar Bowl committee, but if Arkansas and Auburn both win out, I have a hard time figuring out how any bowl committee could justify taking what would be a three-loss Tide or two-loss LSU team over the Hogs.
But…there's some work still to be done for that to even be a possibility. The Razorbacks will get an ear full of cowbell this week when they head to Starkville to take on the bowl bound Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Mississippi State boasts the SEC's third-ranked scoring defense, giving up just 18.3 points per game. Linebacker Chris White, who should earn some consideration for SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors, ranks fourth in the SEC in both tackles (8.9 per game) and tackles for loss (1.3 per game).
Arkansas has averaged 45.8 points per game over the last five games, and two of those have been without star wide receiver Greg Childs. I never doubt a Bobby Petrino offense, and that won't change this week. The emergence of Knile Davis as a legitimate running threat and the golden arm of Ryan Mallett keep the Hogs in contention for Bourbon Street.
Last year's Magnolia Bowl between Ole Miss and LSU provided America with one of the most infamous moments in recent SEC history, when Tiger head coach Les Miles committed one of the all-time bonehead clock management gaffs and cost LSU a shot at the win. With a BCS bowl and an outside shot at the BCS National Championship Game still on the table, will the pressure get to Miles again? Considering the opposition, I doubt it.
Don't get me wrong, LSU has issues of its own. The Tigers were outgained at the half by ULM, tallied only 251 yards for the game and converted only 2-of-12 third downs in last week's 51-0 win over the hapless Warhawks.
There is a reason for LSU to be confident though…the Rebs are only slightly better than ULM.
Ole Miss is coming off a blowout loss to Tennessee which, unless you're Memphis or Tennessee-Martin, simply can't happen. The Rebels are 10th in the SEC in total defense (282 yards per game), ninth in passing defense (241 yards per game) and eighth in rushing defense (141 yards per game). If LSU is ever going to look good offensively this season, this is the time.
The Tigers still have a lot to play for, and if we know anything about Les Miles' bunch, we know that they will find a way to win – even if they take a circuitous route to get there. The Tigers stay away from the Rebel Black Bears' trap and will face Arkansas next week with a possible trip to the Sugar Bowl on the line.
Tennessee typically has an easy schedule to close out the year, and 2010 is no different. That will come in handy, because there's a very real possibility that the Vols can win out and finish the season bowl eligible. Raise your hand if you saw that coming a month ago (put your hand down, no you didn't)?
Since taking over as the Vols' starting quarterback, freshman Tyler Bray has won back-to-back SEC Freshman of the Week awards and thrown eight touchdown passes with zero interceptions. Not bad for a freshman…or anyone for that matter. Couple Bray with junior running back Tauren Poole, who has as many 100-yard rushing games this year as Auburn quarterback Cam Newton (6), and the Vols find themselves with hope for the present and future.
With two winnable games (at Vanderbilt, vs. Kentucky) left on the docket, becoming bowl eligible would be huge for this team. Not necessarily for notoriety purposes – after all, a trip to the Birmingham Bowl won't be displayed prominently in next year's media guide. But it would be huge for the team in 2011. Those extra bowl practices act as extra spring practice sessions, and with a team like Tennessee which is still adjusting to life under Derek Dooley, those practices are not only a luxury – they're a necessity.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter at
Don't forget to check out "Y'all Play Nice" from CFN's Russ Mitchell and Brian Harbach every Thursday during the season.
2010 Three & Out Archive