These days, it's more likely to focus on The Great Divide between the "haves" and "have nots" within the SEC itself.
Forget about Ole Miss pushing
"I know that we are not near
"Hopefully some day we can get there. We have to recruit and if we can get to that level with those guys we should be able to play with them."
It wasn't all that long ago when the SEC seemed to be 10 deep with quality teams capable of competing within the conference and winning the SEC's abundant share of non-conference games.
Now, the rich seem to be getting
richer and former middle class programs such as
"It's a pretty big divide and from our standpoint is a huge divide," said Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom, whose team recently went 0-4 against Auburn, Georgia, LSU and Florida over a five-week period. "You don't have the talent level and the skills position that some of those teams have. You don't have the depth. The guys they face in practice, they are getting a fastball pitcher every week in practice. They are able to give you an idea of what you will get on Saturday."
So what's the big deal about a little division within the SEC ranks? This abyss isn't without its consequences.
For one thing, a conference accustomed to sending seven and eight teams to bowls might not produce more than six eligible teams this season.
Also, beating those lower-tier
teams won't help the top-tier teams as much as it used to. If
Dividing the conference in half
also hurts the SEC's national reputation - a status that already took a hit last
Check out the ACC, where at least nine teams appear bowl worthy. Didn't that used to be the SEC?
For Tennessee (3-2, 2-2 SEC) to have any chance at winning at Alabama on Saturday and start salvaging something positive from a season that's already fallen far short of its championship expectations, the Vols have to find a way to fix an offense that entered last week ranked 96th in the nation scoring offense (19 points per game) and 86th in total offense (336.2 yards per game).
"Defensively, you can't complain at
all. They have played well because they have their personality,"
None of that's going to happen until the Vols learn to run the ball like they have in the past when they've been at their best. With a running game that ranks 100th in the nation in rushing (98.8 yards per game), it probably doesn't matter who plays quarterback at this point.
"I'm embarrassed about it," said
Fulmer, a former
At that same time, the Vols have put themselves in difficult circumstance for running the ball all too often this season.
"We got 21 points down at LSU,"
Fulmer said. "That's not the time to run it a whole bunch. And certainly against
So what will it take? The offensive line needs to get healthy and find a combination of five it can count on after undergoing several changes through the first five games. The entire offense needs to do a much better job with execution, penalties and other mistakes that have bogged down potential scoring drives. Even those dropped passes by the receivers add up, because they usually lead to obvious passing situations and more pressure on the quarterbacks.
More than anything, the Vols would like to run the ball consistently enough to establish a physical personality on offense, control the line of scrimmage, take some pressure off quarterback Rick Clausen and open up some opportunities in the passing game.
That won't be easy against an
"I would like to be a balanced football team," Fulmer said. "I would like to rush the ball well. I know how much better it is on everybody when you can rush the football."
Keith Brown was the only wide receiver to catch more than one pass, wide receiver DJ Hall spent most of game on the sideline with bruised ribs, the offense struggled to put up a season-low 121 rushing yards and the Crimson Tide never pulled off the big pass play to spark the offense.
"We missed him a lot today,"
More than anything, "I think the biggest thing is after the catch," quarterback Brodie Croyle said. "That's where Prothro made his money. Most of his yards were after the catch."
Then again, there's something to be said for coming out on the right end of a dramatic last-minute drive.
"A game-winning drive, we hadn't had one in a while," Croyle said. "It was about time we had one."
"I think this will help us," said
After the Alabama game, Ole Miss looks like a good bet to beat Kentucky at home, but the keys will be the Rebels' first-half offensive production and red zone success.
Ole Miss entered the
Ole Miss also came up short on a
trip into the red zone in the fourth quarter, despite earning first-and-goal
"After the second one, I was like, 'Are you serious? Two delay (penalties) in a row?" offensive tackle Tre Stallings said. "We still had time to get something done after that, but it was a big momentum swing right there."
The Tide responded by driving for the game-winning field goal, leaving the Rebels at 2-4, 0-3 in the SEC and in desperate need of a win over anyone "even Kentucky."
They can start by doing a better job in the red zone "especially in the first half.
"We got all the way down there and just started killing ourselves," receiver Mario Hill said. "We were at the goal line with a chance to score, which is what you want. It's tough when you know the other team isn't stopping you. You're stopping yourself."
With an offense struggling for
consistency, especially in the running game,
"You haven't heard? He's not a quarterback anymore," Spurrier said early in the open date. "We found a new position for him. But we're going to keep it a surprise for the Vandy game. Seriously."
Spurrier was more willing to
address the situation the next day, hinting that
"He looked okay at tailback, at quarterback and at wide receiver. He plays a little bit of all right now," Spurrier said. "The way he ran the other day, I'd like to see him run again and see what happens. We're just not making many yards, maybe he can make some. We'll find out."
Richard Scott is a featured
columnist and Tiger Rag's SEC expert. A longtime journalist in the