JOE BIDDLE: Tennessee now faces SEC’s best

JOE BIDDLE: Tennessee now faces SEC's best (Image 1)

Some of those so-called directional schools threw scares into big, bad SEC teams Saturday.

Central Florida knocked out South Carolina's quarterback, Connor Shaw, held a 10-0 halftime lead and rolled up 427 yards of offense on the Gamecocks defense before holding on at the end for a 28-25 win in Orlando.

Closer to home, South Alabama gave Tennessee all it wanted at Neyland Stadium before the Vols outscored the Jaguars 17-7 in the second half to take a nerve-wracking 31-24 despite being heavily favored.

Now the road gets even rockier for Butch Jones and his Vols. This is a team that will have to give up eating the pabulum and cut into some prime beef.

They now face a Top Ten Georgia team this Saturday that is playing as tough as any team in the country after beating LSU between the hedges, 44-41.

An open date gives them time to catch their breath before hosting South Carolina and top-ranked Alabama in back-to-back weeks.

In the meantime, the Vols have a load to learn, a lot of understanding just what it takes to beat the elite in SEC games.

“Our players are intelligent. They understand what's at stake with the football programs we're facing in Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama,'' said Vols Coach Butch Jones after seeing his team move to 3-2 on the season. “We have to concern ourselves with ourselves. If we turn the football over, we have zero chance to win.''

Big Dan McCullers admitted his teammates recognize the competition only gets more difficult and they don't have much time to eliminate all the mistakes they made against South Alabama.

“We've got to learn pretty fast,'' McCullers said. “We have a couple of big SEC games with Georgia, Bama and South Carolina. It's going to be a tough test, but we are going to be prepared.''

The Vols offense took the kickoff to start the second half and drove it down for a touchdown. Then everything from that point sputtered and stalled.

The reasons were varied. They can't afford to make the type mistakes they made against South Alabama and hope to spring an upset over No. 9 Georgia, now favored to win the Eastern Division and head to the SEC Championship Game.

They botched a fake field goal, had eight penalties for 43 yards and quarterback Justin Worley threw three interceptions. They repeat that against Georgia and the Bulldogs will boat-race them down the river on Rocky Top.

“It's a difficult process, but we got there,'' Jones said. “We take the goods and bads from it. We had anything and everything that could go wrong – we turned the ball over, the fake punt, penalties, not getting off the field on third downs, yet we found a way to win.''

Worley hasn't faced pressure like he will against Georgia. While Oregon was quicker, Georgia relies on speed and strength. Worley's footwork is highly suspect. It causes some of his passes to sail, to be wide of his target, and be up for grabs.

I doubt he can correct that this week. Imagine what Georgia can do after you saw what South Alabama did to Worley.

“He's got to learn to throw that ball away on that interception in that situation before the half,'' Jones said. “They brought a lot of pressure, trying to impact the quarterback. He needs to learn (to hold it) one more split second because we had crossing routes (open).

“Playing quarterback at Tennessee, there's a lot that comes with that.''

Worley is the best the Vols have now. They better sign someone to groom if they don't see a quarterback of the future on the current roster.

The top SEC defenses will force Worley to learn the hard way.

Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at

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