Game preview: UT vs. South Carolina
Derek Dooley might not beat Steve Spurrier on Saturday night. But he already has upstaged him.
Thanks to the Tennessee coach's personnel shuffling this week, Spurrier now qualifies as the patient coach in tonight's UT-South Carolina game at Neyland Stadium.
Spurrier has spent his career shuffling quarterbacks the way most coaches shuffle defensive tackles. He has alternated quarterbacks by the play as well as the game. He's as famous for a quick hook as a thrown visor.
Now that former starting quarterback Stephen Garcia has been dismissed from the team, Spurrier is all hooked out. It's Connor Shaw's game except when the Gamecocks switch to the wildcat package with cornerback Stephon Gilmore, wide receiver Bruce Ellington or maybe even given defensive tackle Melvin Ingram turn.
Lining up the 276-pound Ingram in the shotgun wouldn't be as risky as UT starting true freshman Justin Worley at quarterback. At least, Ingram has succeeded as a runner at the college level. He ran 68 yards for a touchdown against Georgia on a fake punt. Worley's college experience is limited to a few meaningless plays at the end of UT's 37-6 loss to Alabama.
Simms was good enough to start the first two-thirds of the season last year. Now, he's deemed so incompetent that a freshman who has never thrown a pass in a college game is considered a better alternative.
And that's based, in part, on how Simms played against the two best teams in the country. A week before absorbing that one-two punch, Simms came off the bench to lead UT on a scoring drive against Georgia.
Pulling Simms for Worley in the final minutes against Alabama seemingly was motivated more by frustration than desperation. It was as though Dooley couldn't bear to watch Simms quarterback another series after the Vols after the offense had failed to produce a second-half first down.
Spurrier has made moves like that. Some of them have worked out, too.
But given Worley's lack of experience, it would make more sense to start Simms against South Carolina, whose defense is good but not LSU or Alabama good. If he faltered, then you could give Worley a shot. That's what the Vols did last year against South Carolina in making the transition from Simms to Bray.
The counterpoint to that: Worley has had all week to work with the No. 1 offense so he's better prepared going into the game.
He also has had a week for the pressure to build up. Who knows how that will affect him?
But Dooley is obviously less fearful of the unknown than he is Simms.
South Carolina 23, Tennessee 17: Win or lose, if Worley plays well, the coach will look good.
Georgia 27, Florida 24: This game tells you all you need to know about the SEC East.
The Bulldogs lost their first two games of the season and almost lost to Vanderbilt two weeks ago. The Gators have lost their last three SEC games by a combined score of 96-27.
Yet both are still in the running for a division title and a chance to be embarrassed in the SEC championship game.
The biggest difference in this watered-down version of the game known as the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party: Georgia has Aaron Murray at quarterback, and Florida doesn't.
Mississippi State 23, Kentucky 13: After an open date and a victory against Jacksonville State, the Wildcats resume their quest to be recognized as the worst team in the modern era of SEC football — or at least since the league went to divisional play in 1992.
Never mind what the Wildcats have achieved against a feeble nonconference schedule. They have been outscored 137-20 in their first three SEC games. South Carolina's 0-11 1993 team didn't start out that badly in the conference. Neither did Bill Curry's 1-10 Kentucky team of 1993.
Ole Miss (Nov. 5) in Lexington is all that stands between the Wildcats and an 0-8 SEC season. Tickets are still available.
Auburn 27, Ole Miss 20: The Tigers will catch the Rebels looking ahead to that Kentucky showdown.
Although Kentucky's spectacular ineptitude has overshadowed Ole Miss's dreadful play — it was outscored 109-27 in its first three SEC losses and has since added a defeat against Arkansas — the Rebels have quietly gone about their business of getting coach Houston Nutt fired.
Looking ahead, I would recommend anyone named Manning as a replacement — Peyton, Archie, Cooper, Olivia ... anyone.
Arkansas 31, Vanderbilt 20: It's about time someone recognizes this Commodores defense as one of the best in school history.
Seven games into the season, Vanderbilt has yet to give up more than 34 points. It could become the first Commodores team since 1965 not to allow 35 or more points in at least one game.
Top 25: Oklahoma 45, Kansas State 27; Oklahoma State 52, Baylor 30; Wisconsin 27, Ohio State 13; Oregon 56, Washington State 17; Clemson 38, Georgia Tech 27; Virginia Tech 37, Duke 13; Michigan State 27, Nebraska 24; Stanford 42, Southern California 30; Arizona State 45, Colorado 23; West Virginia 38, Rutgers 24; Penn State 24, Illinois 23; Texas A&M 45, Missouri 34; Michigan 37, Purdue 22.
Record: 106-19 (.847) overall, 71-40 (.639) against the spread.