– Texas State at Texas A&M, Toledo at Kentucky, Ole Miss at Memphis
– Alabama vs. Duke, Portland State at Arkansas, Georgia Southern vs. LSU
– Auburn vs. Oregon, Missouri at Wyoming, Georgia at Vanderbilt
It was a strange game for the Bulldogs. A slew of players were suspended, it was played in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and Louisiana is good enough to be more than just competitive. It might have been a tougher game than expected, but the offense kept the pressure on and got the win even though the team didn’t play its best. One thing stood out, though – this isn’t last year’s defense.
Tommy Stevens was more than fine. He came up with a few nice throws, kept things moving with his legs, and he completed 20-of-30 passes for 236 yards and two scores. He also ran for 37 yards and a score, but the big difference from the Nick Fitzgerald era should be the rest of the running game – the backs will handle it even more. Kylin Hill ran for 197 yards and a score.
About that D. You don’t get better when you lose a Montez Sweat, Jeffery Simmons and Johnathan Abram, but to give up 431 yards to Louisiana and giving up 164 rushing yards – only Kentucky came up with more than that last season – is a problem. The five takeaways helped, but this is going to be a wee bit of a work in progress.
South Carolina played this game not to lose … and then it lost. It was a way-too-conservative gameplan that relied on the Gamecock defense, and the hope that going against a true freshman quarterback in Sam Howell, would be enough to get by after taking an early lead. The Tar Heels kept on pressing, and the Gamecocks got tighter and tighter.
Jake Bentley played like the true freshman, and Howell played like the four-year starter. Bentley’s bad late interception will what the game will ultimately be remembered for, but he only completed 16-of-30 passes for 142 yards and a score with another pick on the day. The entire offense appeared to be off – again, it just never seemed to want to push it too hard. Playing for field position didn’t work.
This was absolutely devastating. The Gamecocks only finished with 270 yards, committed nine penalties, and whiffed on chance after chance. This was a must win with Alabama, at Missouri, Kentucky, at Georgia, Florida, at Texas A&M and Clemson still to play.
That this doesn’t seem all that shocking is the real issue. Tennessee had its chances several times to get up and put this away, but it failed time and again to come through in key moments. The biggest problem continues to be the lines – they’re just not fixed, and that’s the most embarrassing part about all of this – the Vols were outrushed 213 yards to 93.
It’s not like the Georgia State offense lit up the Vols. Panther QB Dan Ellington came though in the clutch, but he only hit 11-of-24 passes and didn’t do much of anything down the field. The inability to hold up on the line – Georgia State ran it 53 times – was the big problem. Time of possession wasn’t an issue, but the Vols could never establish control.
The Tennessee offense keep things moving. It was fine on third downs, it outgunned the Panthers, and Jarrett Guarantano wasn’t bad – throwing for 311 yards and two scores – but the three turnovers and the meltdown in the fourth proved costly. This is hardly a deathblow – the Vols could absolutely bounce back against BYU and UT Chattanooga before going to Florida – but again, the lines have to be far, far better.