Sugar Bowl Update
November 25, 2007
One more win Saturday in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta will put Tennessee back in a Bowl Championship Series game for the first time since 1999 when the Vols lost to Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl.
Tennessee would go to the Sugar Bowl, should it win to probably face Hawaii, which beat Boise State on Friday.
Georgia is also in line for a BCS game. It is No. 4 in the latest BCS rankings. With Arizona State and Oregon both losing this last weekend, Georgia appears likely to move up to the Fiesta Bowl.
In other BCS games, West Virginia and Missouri have the inside track on playing for the BCS Championship. Missouri is currently No. 1 in the BCS rankings and West Virginia is No. 2. If both win this week, they would likely meet for the title. Waiting in the wings is Ohio State. The Buckeyes are No. 3 in the rankings. If both Missouri and West Virginia lose, Georgia could move up to the championship game without playing for the SEC title.
"I would hope the SEC champion would get an opportunity to play in that game,'' said LSU coach Les Miles on Sunday. "I would not begrudge Georgia, if it got that opportunity. But our team has not lost a game in regulation.''
Both teams are 10-2. LSU's losses have come in three overtimes at Kentucky and three overtimes at home against Arkansas on Friday.
The quirk of the system has Georgia No. 4 in the BCS and LSU No. 7. Tennessee is No. 14 in the BCS and certainly couldn't expect such an opportunity -- though the Vols beat Georgia, 35-14.
Right now, Tennessee is projected to play the loser of the Missouri vs. Oklahoma game in the Cotton Bowl, should it not beat LSU and go to the Sugar Bowl.
Other projections are as follow:
Sugar Bowl: LSU or Tennessee vs. Hawaii
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Georgia
Capitol One Bowl: Florida vs. Michigan
Cotton Bowl: Tennessee or LSU vs. Missouri or Oklahoma
Outback Bowl: Auburn vs. Wisconsin
Chick-Fil-A: Kentucky vs. Clemson
Music City Bowl: Arkansas vs. Florida State
Independence Bowl: Alabama vs. Oklahoma State
Liberty: Mississippi State vs. Central Florida
Other BCS Bowl projections:
BCS Championship: Missouri vs. West Virginia
Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Kansas
Rose Bowl: Illinois or Ohio State vs. Southern Cal
South Carolina, the only other qualified SEC team, is likely to stay home after losing its final five games and finishing 6-6.
* Vol coach Phillip Fulmer to the media this past week: "I don't have a crystal ball," Fulmer said of the Kentucky game. "I tell our guys every week that if it's 3-0, that's fine, and if it's 52-50, that's fine. As long as we get the win."
Turns out, Fulmer was right on.
* I was also right on on my SEC Championship Game prediction, but I can't get on the high horse too much because Tennessee finished the regular season with two more losses than I predicted and I am not exactly lighting it up on the Pickin' Panel this year. But I did say back on Aug. 30 that Tennessee and LSU would win their respective SEC divisions and play for the SEC title in Atlanta. I also had Auburn No. 2 to LSU in the West, which happened.
Early on, I have to admit, I thought I had blown it. But I have never seen a team with more want-to than this Tennessee team -- and that is a reflection on Fulmer and his coaching staff. This team keeps finding ways to win, while the 2005 team found ways to lose. A unified coaching staff helped that turnaround.
Fulmer, by the way, has padded his lead in winning percentage among coaches with 10 or more seasons in Division I. While Lloyd Carr of Michigan moved ahead of Fulmer slightly a few weeks back, three Fulmer wins and two Carr losses put Fulmer back at No. 1 and he has padded that further with Top 5s Steve Spurrier and Bobby Bowden losing again Saturday. Spurrier, in fact, and fellow national championship winner Nick Saban both just wrapped up 6-6 seasons. In that light, Fulmer's 5-6 two years ago doesn't look quite as bad.
Despite all the criticism and calls for changes, the Tennessee staff has proved its mettle and isn't going anywhere -- except to Atlanta for the SEC Championship.
And it is interesting to note Tennessee has been there more than any other SEC team in the last 11 years. From 1997 to 2007, Tennessee has now qualified for the SEC championship game five times and tied for the SEC East another time, but lost out on the tiebreaker. That's six SEC East titles in 11 years, if you are counting. The Vols won the SEC Championship game in 1997 and 1998, lost in 2001 and 2004 and lost out on a tiebreaker in 2003 and is going for a fifth time this year. This will be LSU's fourth appearance in that stretch.
Florida has been there just three times in the last 10 years, Georgia three times, LSU three times, Auburn three times, and Arkansas twice. Mississippi State and Alabama made the other two appearances. Tennessee is also tied for most SEC Championships in that period, though the last came in 1998. Florida, Georgia and LSU have won twice each since Tennessee last won.
Here are results of the last 10 SEC Championship Games:
2006 Florida 38, Arkansas 28
2005 Georgia 34, LSU 14
2004 Auburn 38, Tennessee 28
2003 LSU 34, Georgia 13
2002 Georgia 30, Arkansas 3
2001 LSU 31, Tennessee 20
2000 Florida 28, Auburn 6
1999 Alabama 34, Florida 7
1998 Tennessee 24, Miss. St. 14
1997 Tennessee 30, Auburn 29
* My Heisman Trophy ballot goes back this week. My top choice is Darren McFadden of Arkansas. He didn't have a great game against Tennessee, but his effort against LSU on Friday pushed him over the top with me. He has even better numbers this year than he did last year when he finished No. 2 in the Heisman voting. Tim Tebow of Florida had gaudy numbers, but a some of them came when the "Urban Legend" was running up the score on people. Tebow is a great talent, but so is
Darren McFadden. My No. 3 is Missouri QB Chase Daniels, who has led his team to the verge of an unlikely Big 12 title and beat previously unbeaten Kansas on the road Saturday. He came in with over 3,500 yards passing and threw for another 361 in the victory. Most years, I want until the last weekend of play, but I don't see that changing my thinking this year.
* The Christmas Rush is beginning and I would like to ask those of you who appreciate what we do on TriCitiesSports.com to buy my Ray Mears book for someone who would appreciate it for Christmas. We don't charge for what we do on TriCitiesSports.com. It is all advertiser-supported, but this is a way to say thank you, if you are so inclined.
I have three more local book signings coming up, beginning at The Haggle Shop on Broad Street in downtown Kingsport on Wednesday, Nov. 27 from 12 noon to 2 p.m., at Front Row Sports on Memorial Drive near Great Body Company on Sunday, Dec. 9 from 2 to 5 p.m., and at HoundDogs in Johnson City from 4 to 7 p.m., on Friday, Dec. 14. The book is currently available at each of those outlets, as well as at Barnes & Nobles Booksellers in Johnson City, where I was for a signing on Friday, and at Wallace's News in Kingsport. If you wish, buy a book at one of those outlets and bring it to one of the signings and I will be glad to autograph it for you. Matt Mears, Ray's youngest son and a Kingsport resident, will also be with me at Front Row Sports on Dec. 9 and I hope to have his mother, Dana Mears, with me at HoundDogs in Johnson City on Dec. 14. Scott Gray and WKPT will do a radio remote during that signing.
The book is also available in Knoxville at Long's Drugs, in Thompson-Boling Arena during UT basketball games, at Traditions in Stokely Center and at Turkey Creek and at Border's in Turkey Creek, where I will do a book signing on Saturday, Dec. 8.
On line, for those of you who live out of the area, you can go to www.TVP1.com for information on buying my book and/or Dane Bradshaw's Vertical Leap, which is from the same publisher, Tennessee Valley Publishing. We are promoting them together as "A Big Orange Christmas" and would encourage folks to buy them in tandem. One is a reflection of the Golden Era in Tennessee basketball in the 1960s and 1970s and is a history of Tennessee's sports traditions, while Bradshaw's book is a diary of one of the greatest seasons in Tennessee basketball history, the Vols' Sweet 16 run last season. The eras are linked in my book, which includes pictures of Coach Bruce Pearl with Coach Mears and with Ernie & Bernie, as well as with greats Billy Justus and Tom Boerwinkle.
Bradshaw is currently playing pro ball in Holland and is leading his team with a 16.9 ppg average and is also averaging 5.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game for the Den Helder Seals. He is playing point guard. To keep up with what he is doing, go to the following link: http://www.basketballsite.nl/joomla/gamebygame.asp?playerid=13_Bradshaw_Dane&sz=0708
* Sold a book to former Kingsport Assistant City Manager Tony Massey in Lexington on Saturday at the game. Tony, who showed up for the game decked out in his orange, is a Vol in Wildcat Country. He is the city manager now in Frankfort, Ky., the state capital. He plans to have no mercy Monday on those who needle him about his Vol leanings.
Ron Bliss is editor of TriCitiesSports.com and author of the new book, Ray Mears' Big Orange Memories.