SEC Games this week

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The Ole Miss v. Texas game is a very interesting game this week but I am going to spend all my time previewing two SEC games this week. (The Hogs should win easy since Southern Miss has the nation’s longest losing streak!!!!!) Tennessee at Oregon and Alabama at Texas A&M. My good friend George used to work in Oregon as their lead sports editor and he has written about Tennessee and Oregon before when they played 3 years ago. Now I have included an article below from him on the Alabama and Texas A&M game because he is now working for USA Today.  Below is an article from George on that followed by an article on the Tennessee v Oregon game.  I think that Tennessee only has a chance if they can have long sustained drives and not turn the ball over at all. That seems unlikely and most people are predicting that Oregon will roll. I personally don’t think the Ducks will have many competitive contests this year in their conference either especially since it appears that USC is disappearing off the map as Lane Kiffin implodes.

Silence from Johnny Manziel, except on the football field

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Johnny Manziel is not talking. At least, not publicly. No interviews. No TV time. More than likely, no tweets. That was the word from Texas A&M officials Tuesday – but it’s the quarterback’s choice.

“I’ll respect his wishes for that,” Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said, adding that Manziel’s decision was made after consulting with “his lawyers and his family.”

ALABAMA: Pays respect for Johnny Manziel

Which only speaks to how odd the situation is. The buildup for No. 1 Alabama’s visit to No. 6 Texas A&M is enormous, and the overarching storyline is pretty simple: Can Manziel and Texas A&M roll Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide again? But the reigning Heisman Trophy winner has clammed up on the advice of attorneys.

The reasons for Manziel’s silence are well-known. He hasn’t yet publicly discussed the pay-for-autograph scandal that enveloped him during the preseason and led to a one-half game suspension in the Aggies’ season opener against Rice. But if he’s not talking, it’s not that dissimilar from the last time these teams met, last November in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

RELATED: Alabama ignores ‘hype’ of Manziel, revenge theme

The legend of Johnny Football wasn’t born that day, exactly – he was already a burgeoning folk hero – but it fully blossomed. Manziel’s performance in the Aggies’ upset propelled a nice little story into superstardom. Manziel was restricted by Sumlin’s no-interview policy for freshmen, but Johnny’s football spoke loudly. We’ve all seen endless replays of the scramble-fumble-turned-touchdown-pass – the best illustration of Manziel’s freelancing ability – and of his late-game passing for the winning score.

“It was a stage for the whole world to see what kind of player he is,” Texas A&M senior running back Ben Malena said.

And junior offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, who bumped into Manziel, jarring the football free briefly before the quarterback gathered it in and created that highlight TD, said the moment won Manziel the Heisman.

MORNING TAILGATE: Alabama-Texas A&M week

“Every Heisman guy needs that one game, and that was it,” Ogbuehi said. “He just came out there, he played really good and confident. I’m hoping he does the same thing this Saturday.”

The Heisman came soon after. It was followed by the endless offseason with Drake and LeBron, followed finally, just before the start of preseason practices, by the autograph scandal, which led to the half-game suspension and, for the last six weeks (with one brief post-game exception Saturday) a muzzled Manziel.

This week, we won’t hear his take on beating Alabama a year ago, what it meant to him and the program – or how he’s looking forward to the rematch. Last spring, Manziel told USA TODAY Sports he knew the Alabama game “was gonna be fun,” and that he expected some of his new celebrity acquaintances to attend.

“It’s big on the schedule,” Manziel said then. “Look how we went in there last year and we were able to take care of business at their home, and now they’re coming in here, trying to take care of business at our home.”

RELATED: Alabama bar features a Johnny Manziel piñata

ALABAMA: Can Saban solve Johnny Football riddle?

Coaches and teammates said Manziel is a better quarterback now than last November. He worked during the offseason to become a better passer, and the Aggies’ emphasis has been on remaining in the pocket longer and scrambling less often, without reining in his improvisational skills.

“He’s come a long way,” junior receiver Malcome Kennedy said. “Obviously, he’s a unique quarterback. What he does makes him who he is. He’s really been focusing on proving to everyone that he can be a great quarterback and make all the throws.”

Sumlin spoke Tuesday of harnessing Manziel’s intensity and passion. During the season opener, TV cameras captured Manziel talking with Rice defenders and making various gestures. Sumlin yanked him from the game after he was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Sumlin said Manziel’s behavior “was not the norm.”

“He plays with great emotion and intensity,” Sumlin said, “and it’s my job to have that emotion and intensity moving in a positive direction because when that happens, great things happen.”

TIMELINE: Manziel’s tumultuous offseason

Whatever happens, the TV audience is likely to see it. CBS plans to focus a camera solely on Manziel – the “Johnny Cam.” It’s not a completely new idea; the network did it, for example, with Tim Tebow a few years back. But Sumlin didn’t sound happy with the development.

“Saturday afternoon, you’re gonna have two football teams on the field,” Sumlin said. “And I just don’t understand why there’s got to be one guy singled out to put a camera on the whole time. That’s not what we’re trying to be about and not what we’re trying to promote. … With all the criticism about individualism on a football team, I don’t think this helps enhance a team concept one bit.”

Manziel has spoken publicly once since the autograph allegations surfaced. Last Saturday night, after a victory over Sam Houston State, he answered a few questions during the postgame interview session.

“I thought he did a great job,” Sumlin said. “He expressed his feelings about his play Saturday and his teammates’ play.”

Many reporters were in the press box, on deadline. Manziel was not asked about and did not express his feelings on the autograph controversy or the suspension. Those questions undoubtedly would have been asked this week, and will be asked whenever the quarterback is finally available.

Until then – and especially Saturday – we’ll all watch to see what Johnny’s football has to say.

George Schroeder, a national college football reporter for USA TODAY Sports, is on Twitter @GeorgeSchroeder.

Butch Jones And Tennessee Volunteers Face Huge Test At Oregon

Sep 9th, 2013 at 12:29 pm by

Two weeks into the Butch Jones tenure at the University of Tennessee, the Tennessee Volunteers have gotten off to about as good of a start as they could imagine. The Vols pitched a shutout in a glorified tuneup game to start the year against overmatched Austin Peay before earning a dominating victory against Bobby Petrino’s Western Kentucky Hilltoppers on Saturday.

Neither victory was the kind that you hang your hat on as a football team, but seeing a Tennessee team that clearly overmatched their opponent go out and dictate the way the Vols have is a welcomed departure from the three years of futility Tennessee fans endured under Derek Dooley. However, now things really start to get difficult for Butch Jones and Tennessee.

A trip to Eugene to pay the Oregon Ducks looms on the horizon, and despite having lost head coach Chip Kelly to the Philadelphia Eagles, Oregon looks as explosive as ever. They enter the week ranked at No. 2 in the nation and are coming off a 59-10 dismantling of the Virginia Cavaliers in Virginia.

Mark Helfrich has Oregon’s offense clicking on all cylinders and these Oregon Ducks look as good or better than the 2010 team that absolutely destroyed the Vols in Neyland Stadium on their way to a national title game appearance. Saturday, they’ll be over three touchdown favorites over the Vols.

So what exactly is reasonable in terms of expectations for Butch Jones and Tennessee?

Competitive aspirations aside, if the Vols were to play with any sort of intensity for four entire quarters, that’d certainly be an improvement over their last game with the Ducks. It seems a given that you demand a team give maximum effort for four quarters, but given this team’s propensity to give up when overmatched under Derek Dooley, it’s only natural that you’d fear effort could be a lingering issue.

The Vols routinely rolled over in the second half in game’s against upper-echelon opponents, and playing the role of massive underdog in a place like Autzen Stadium can break the confidence and focus of even the most veteran of teams. Unfortunely, this Tennessee team is far from veteran.

Of course, the Tennessee Volunteers will have to lean heavily on a running game that has impressed through the first two weeks of the season. With Oregon’s explosive offense, Tennessee will desperately want to try to do whatever they can to control the tempo and keep that high-powered offense off the field.

A veteran offensive line combined with two experienced (and improved) options at tailback shouldn’t be rattled by a hostile environment, having dealt with week-to-week life in the SEC over the last few years. However, expect Oregon to plan accordingly and load the box, encouraging new junior starting quarterback Justin Worley to try to beat the Ducks with his arm.

Worley has been erratic in his first two starts, struggling with accuracy in limited passing attempts during the first two weeks of the season. Oregon will undoubtedly bait Worley into taking shots downfield, and Worley will have to be able to take advantage if the Vols are going to have any shot.

Defensively, the Tennessee Volunteers will have to continue to swarm the football and wreak havoc. Oregon led the nation last year in turnover margin, and, thus far, they’ve forced opponents into six turnovers in 2013 to their own zero.

Defensive coordinator John Jancek’s unit forced seven turnovers (five in six plays) on Saturday, and while it isn’t realistic to expect a team as well-coached as Oregon to give the football away over a half-dozen times, the Vols will have to force Oregon into mistakes if they hope to notch the upset victory on the road.

Ultimately, the Vols are looking at the prospects of being massive underdogs because they don’t have the type of talent Oregon does, and everything will have to go right for the Vols to be competitive in this one in Autzen. However, don’t expect Butch Jones’ squad to rollover the way they may have in the past.

The Tennessee Volunteers have a new energy about them under Butch Jones, and I expect the effort to be there on Saturday at the very least. And while effort alone won’t be enough to beat Oregon, that’s about the most reasonable expectation you could have this weekend.

Then again, when has an SEC fanbase ever been collectively reasonable?

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