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The SEC Is 0-4 In Bowl Season. Can Tennessee Or South Carolina Snap The Skid?

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It hasn’t been the most pleasant start to bowl season for the SEC, with the conference currently sitting at 0-4, after Auburn and Mississippi State lost on Tuesday. It certainly doesn’t look great that the four losses came against Texas Tech, Houston, UCF and Army. So, the SEC is certainly rooting for Tennessee and South Carolina to swing the momentum on Thursday.

The Gamecocks are rolling into the Duke’s Mayo Bowl with a bit of a quarterback problem. Shane Beamer has to be a bit nervous with only Zeb Noland being a guy with actual reps this season. This is the case because Jason Brown decided to enter the transfer portal and Luke Doty is recovering from foot surgery. So, Beamer has been working other players out at the position, especially those with quarterback experience from high school. It’s not an ideal situation for the Gamecocks to be in, as they prepare for North Carolina, but they are trying to make it work, according to Beamer.

“You want to make sure that you’ve got enough quarterbacks to play the game, so I’m not going to say we’ve had open tryouts, but you certainly have got to kind of have a break glass in case of emergency type thing as well,” Beamer said. “But we’ve got high hopes for those guys. Zeb’s a veteran, savvy guy that’s done a great job all year. I’m excited about seeing him go out in his final chapter of his career and this season at Carolina.”

How this all plays out will be interesting to watch, especially if something were to happen to Noland, who has battled a few injuries this season. Either way, North Carolina will be bringing the heat on Thursday, looking to force a few turnovers from the former graduate assistant turned quarterback. The Gamecocks will need to establish some kind of running game, which could come from Zaquandre White, who led the team in rushing yards this season or Kevin Harris, who was second on the team. Either way, the Tar Heels will present a huge challenge for the South Carolina defense, with Sam Howell playing in the game despite declaring for the NFL Draft. Let’s not forget Ty Chandler at running back and Josh Downs at receiver, who have been huge contributors for this offense.

North Carolina is currently a 9.5 point favorite over the Gamecocks, according to FanDuel. 

For the Gamecocks to win this football game, they will have to get creative with the offensive play calling. Sticking Zeb Noland in the backfield and hoping he can pick off the Tar Heel secondary might be challenging, so they will most likely need to force a few turnovers on defense. The Gamecocks have given up 190 yards rushing yards or more in the past four of five games. Simply put, Shane Beamer better get tricky if he’s going to beat Mack Brown.

Over in Nashville, the Music City Bowl will be played on Thursday afternoon, with Tennessee and Purdue facing off. The Vols come into this game full of momentum, winning seven games this season with an offense that has impressed folks around the country. The catalyst for this offensive swing has been quarterback Hendon Hooker, who has thrown for 2,567 yards with 26 touchdowns and only three interceptions. The Tennessee offense currently ranks 15th in the country in total offense and 9th in scoring offense. Josh Heupel and his staff have done a fantastic job using their veterans on offense to spark this team. Cedric Tillman, Velus Jones Jr. and JaVonta Payton are the weapons at receiver, while Jabari Small will be used heavily at running back.

The Vols are currently a 5.5 point favorite, according to FanDuel. 

This football team will cause the Purdue defense multiple problems, especially with the tempo they play with, wearing down opponents all season. But for Tennessee to be successful on Thursday, they’ll have to avoid the quick three and outs, which have caused the defense problems this year the it comes to depth at certain spots. The Vols are still building, which means they are short handed  at some spots, especially with a few injuries. The main concern for Tennessee fans would probably center around the offensive line, who have given up 42 sacks this season. We will see if Cade Mays plays, but he hasn’t played or practiced much at all over the last six weeks, so you can bet Purdue will attack his spot along the line of scrimmage.

Quarterback Aidan O’Connell will lead Purdue on offense, where he has the best passing percentage in the Big Ten, at 73.5% during the regular season. He backs it up with his numbers, throwing for 3,178 yards with 28 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The Boilermakers will be without their top receivers, as David Bell and Milton Wright will not be playing in the bowl game. Purdue has struggled all season to run the football, so expect I would expect them to test this Tennessee secondary, a lot.

Jerome Carvin, a senior on the offensive line who will be returning next season, made it a point to say that Tennessee is looking to make a statement on Thursday, as they look ahead to 2022.

“It’s like a statement game, if that makes sense. We have to show what we can do, especially with this offense and the team that we’re playing against. We are playing a really good Big 10 team. It’s a statement game.”

The Vols are looking for their fifth straight bowl win over a Big Ten team, which dates back to 2014. I’d say the SEC is hoping Tennessee extends that winning streak and South Carolina finds a way to beat the Tar Heels with a banged up quarterback room. It would look pretty rough for the conference if they stood at 0-5 in bowl season come Thursday night.

I don’t think the fans that love to throw out the “SEC” chant will have to worry about going winless through the first five bowl games. Just a hunch.

Written by Trey Wallace

4 Comments

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  1. The opt out bowls are becoming a new tradition for what used to be the greatest sport on earth. They are no longer fun to watch and the day where college football was a team sport has given way to a group of individuals playing for the name on their backs, rather than the sticker on their helmets. How we got to this point is something I will never understand. The SEC is finally showing signs that it has begun to entirely eat itself.

    • 100% agree. Many players (and coaches) stopped playing for the sticker on their helmets chasing money. The school pride motivator has gone in the toilet, and it used to mean EVERYTHING in these bowl games. It still means a ton to the fans, but not so much to the coaches and players now apparently. One reason could be that you don’t see many head coaches who are also alums who understand and care about the school history, tradition and pride. They typically have coached at 10 schools and don’t really care about all the traditions. It’s just a job. We have the era of rent-a-coaches who come in and are looking over your shoulder at the next bigger gig as soon as they’re hired. We just saw Orgeron shown the door two years after winning a title, as an alum, who wanted to be there for life. A guy like that is canned for Brian Kelley, who knows nothing of LSU tradition, fans, Louisiana culture, nothing, and clearly couldn’t care less about LSU beyond what they can do for his personal coaching record. That’s insanity. That mindset is slowly killing the sport, and it’s rampant.

  2. Not a good showing by SEC teams so far. Everyone has looked unprepared to play going against teams who are. I think a problem forming is the smaller bowls stopped meaning anything to these bigger programs now in the current setup, unfortunately. It’s like extended spring practice to them, and that’s it. Not exactly motivating. There’s an all or nothing expectation in the SEC now, so if you don’t get in the playoff no one cares, and you’re treated as an also ran. It’s not good for football as a whole. I hope UT shows up, because they have a lot to prove as a program. Purdue is a really tough, well coached team though, so it will take an A performance. It’s hard to tell how 18-22 year old kids will respond in these games.

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