SEC Notes

FAYETTEVILLE — On the surface, the timing of Tennessee's bye week seems unfortunate.

The Volunteers served Georgia with a second-half whipping last Saturday in Athens, Ga., leading to a 51-33 victory after they trailed by 17 points in the first half.

So, one would expect Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer to talk frustratingly about being forced to sit at home this week.

He and his players will lounge on couches this Saturday, watching Florida and Auburn on ESPN instead of cashing in on their recently earned momentum.

And, you know what, that's just fine by Fulmer.

Shocked? Take a glance at Tennessee's injury report.

"For us, right now, it hit at a good time," Fulmer said. "We've got a number of guys banged up in our offensive front that need to get healthy. Defense tackle Turk McBride came out (of the Georgia game) with a hip pointer, and (wide receiver) Jayson Swain had an ankle sprain. I think all of those guys will be much better because of the time off."

Despite Fulmer's argument, junior quarterback Erik Ainge may hold a different opinion than his coach. Ainge continues to flourish in Tennessee's system under first-year offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe, who spent six seasons as Ole Miss' coach.

Ainge threw for 268 yards Saturday night, the fifth time in six games that the 6-foot-6, 220-pounder has exceeded the 250-yard mark. In his last three games — convincing victories over Marshall, Memphis and Georgia — Ainge has tossed nine touchdown passes and just one interception.

"We all saw the potential Eric had as a freshman," Fulmer said. "Now, he's playing within the parameters that we are giving him, and the people around him are playing much better. We're not having mishaps, like penalties and dropped passes."

Meyer's Men Tries To Keep Perspective

Florida recently claimed sole possession of first place in the SEC East division, courtesy of its 23-10 victory over LSU and Tennessee's victory at Georgia on Saturday. The Gators recently ascended to the No. 2 spot in the Associated Press poll. And, Urban Meyer's team recently received a constant showering of praise on television and in print.

All that positive news can blur the importance of the near future. Meyer realizes this. That's why he stressed to his team early this week that the past is the past. And it means absolutely nothing, especially as undefeated Florida faces preparations for a trip to Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium to face an angry Tigers team.

"The first time I really hit them with it was this week because (our success) seemed to be the whole focus of attention," Meyer said. "One thing about our players is that they're smart. All you have to do is flip on the film and see one of the most talented teams in the country and one of the most hostile venues in the country, and we're good."

But it's the time when Meyer can't see his players or influence their minds that concerns him.

"What I worry about are the parents and the uncles and Internet and the media," Meyer said. "I worry about a great deal away (from practice), and that's where you have to put a little bit of trust in them, just like I worry about a lot of things when they're away from us."

Injuries Demoralize Mississippi State

The margin of error for Sylvester Croom already was slim. In the third year of a rebuilding project at Mississippi State, Croom knew his Bulldogs couldn't be hampered by even the slightest bit of injuries.

Well, the injury situation in Starkville has gotten much worse than Croom could have ever imagined. Mississippi State's quarterback dilemma personifies Croom's frustrations.

First, Michael Henig broke his collarbone in the Bulldogs' season opener. Backup Tray Rutland then tore ligaments in his knee, finishing his season. Croom moved Omarr Conner to quarterback from wide receiver recently but the senior suffered a severe, career-threatening groin injury last Saturday against West Virginia.

Luckily for Mississippi State, Henig's collarbone had healed. But if Henig goes down, all that's left are two inexperienced freshmen, one who doesn't even appear on any of the Bulldogs' rosters.

Croom joked Tuesday that he gave up after trying to research the number of total games lost by his starters, a statistic he remembered from his days as an assistant with the Green Bay Packers.

"We've got flexibility in our system, so we know what each of (our quarterbacks) can do," Croom said. "This isn't fun, especially at (the quarterback) position. But it's just part of the game."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories