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NCAA Looking To NFL Rulebook For Inspiration

The NCAA might be on the verge of copying over a few guidelines from the NFL’s rulebook.  Tennessee fans, take note.

Yesterday the NCAA proposed adopting a 10-second runoff for clock-stopping penalties in the final minute of each half, which as any Vol fan would tell you (loudly) would have earned UT a victory in last year’s Music City Bowl.

The runoff rule is a sound one.  The rule prevents teams — out of timeouts — from intentionally committing a penalty in order to stop the clock.  In last year’s Music City Bowl, that’s not what North Carolina did when it ran a final play with anywhere from 13 to 18 confused players on the field.  Still, a penalty in that situation — intentional or not — would have led to a 10-second runoff under the proposed rule.

Also, the NCAA has proposed moving umpires from their traditional spot in the middle of the defense to the offensive backfield for safety reasons.  The NFL implemented that rule this past season without controversy.

The NCAA has also proposed a change be made to the existing intentional grounding rule.  The current rules states that a receiver must have “a reasonable opportunity” to catch the football.  The new rule would state that a receiver need only be in the area to make a pass legal.

Other proposed changes:

* Players lined up within seven yards of the center on plays from scrimmage would be allowed to block below the waist anywhere on the field.  Running backs and receivers lined up outside the tackle box would be allowed to block below the waist only if they are blocking straight ahead or toward the nearest sideline.

* Defenses could receive a five-yard penalty on place kicks if three or more players try to overpower one offensive lineman.

It’s expected that April 14th will be the day the NCAA votes on these proposals.

We at are good with the first three changes mentioned above — clock runoff, grounding, moving umpires — but the last two could cause some concerns.  Both would require officials to look for more issues during plays.  Officials are human, if they’re given more fouls to watch for, their margin for error goes up. 

Example: Have you ever watched how defenders bunch together and leap forward when trying to block place kicks?  From what angle will referees be able to clearly see if three or more players are ganging up on one offensive lineman? 

As for receivers and running backs blocking below the waist only in certain directions, a new judgement call would be added into the mix.  Let’s say a receiver on the right side of the field is trying to block his man straight ahead but the blockee backs up and falls to his own right… to the inside of the play.  Now let’s say the receiver goes down with him and falls — along with the blockee — to the inside of the play.  Though the receiver was blocking straight ahead, the blockee’s actions could make it look as though the receiver was blocking to his left and to the inside of the play.  In the final minutes of a close game do you want an official to have to determine whether the receiver was blocking straight ahead or to the inside of the play?  While also watching everything else he’s supposed to be watching on said play?  No, thank ya.

The NCAA rulebook is thick enough as it is.  Fans and coaches complain too much about officials as it is.  Therefore it’s probably best to try and keep the rulebook as it is whenever possible.  Again, we’re good with the first three proposed changes, but not the final two additions.

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UT’s Jackson Withdraws From School

Until now, junior-to-be safety Janzen Jackson has been the exception to the rule — the big-name signee from Lane Kiffin’s first signing class that had panned out on the field.  Sure Jackson has had his share of troubles off the field:

* Arrested but not charged in an attempted armed robbery as a freshman (two other players were charged and dismissed from the team)

* Kiffin hit him with an additional suspension for a violation of team rules during his freshman year

* He has undergone drug rehab (at least once)

* He was on-hand (but uncharged) for a much publicized brawl at Knoxville bar last summer

* In December, there was another drug-related dorm room incident in which he set off a fire alarm in his dorm — take a guess which leafy, green drug might’ve been involved.

Through it all, Jackson has been kept on the team.  In December, between the dorm room incident and the Music City Bowl, Jackson went back to his home state of Louisiana for personal reasons.  UT coach Derek Dooley said at the time that Jackson was not being disciplined and indeed he did start in the Vols’ bowl game when he returned.

And now Jackson has withdrawn from the University of Tennessee.  That news broke in Knoxville last night with Dooley once again saying that this move is about Jackson, not discipline.

“Janzen continues to battle personal issues of which our program is always going to be very supportive of,” Dooley said.  “His decision to withdraw and his issues are not disciplinary by nature.  His withdrawal from school has nothing to do with disciplinary reasons on the football team and everything to do with a continuing battle of deep personal issues, of which we’re very supportive of.”

“His leaving for bowl practice was not a punishment, and as long as he continues to manage his personal issues and football and school, he’s going to be welcomed back in the program,” Dooley added.  “He’s clearly reached a point where the personal issues have become much greater than his ability to manage workouts and school.  Until he gets a little clarity on those issues, we’re going to support him.”

At, we’re all for supporting players.  We believe in second chances because a few of us around here — like the guy at the keyboard now — has gotten them.

But we also can’t help but wonder if Jackson’s status as UT’s only All-SEC performer in 2010 might have something to do with his ability to leave the team and now leave school with no reduction in his playing time.  I think it’s safe to say a walk-on or an unproductive, third-string lineman might not get the same treatment.

If/when Jackson returns — after this semester — he’ll need to get a one-time only “missed-semester” waiver from the NCAA to be eligible to compete in the fall.  He will also have to be cleared by UT’s student judiciary committee for the dorm room incident in December.  Get through all that and it sounds like he’s in the clear.  Because Dooley is standing by his man no matter what.

Jackson’s continuing issues might be part of the reason the Vols signed five defensive backs last Wednesday.

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Dooley Dismisses Ex-Vol Smith From Staff

As Tennessee prepped for its Music City Bowl date in December, defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox was rumored to be on the shortlist to join Mack Brown’s staff at Texas.  At the time, the rumor mill suggested that Wilcox was having some personality conflicts Tennessee defensive line coach Chuck Smith.

When all was said and done, Wilcox stayed at Tennessee.  But Smith isn’t.  In what the school called a mutual decision, the former Vol player is leaving the UT program to “pursue other career opportunities.”  I think we can do the math on what Derek Dooley might have done to keep Wilcox in Knoxville. reports that Dooley “has dismissed” Smith.

Smith will be replaced by linebackers coach Lance Thompson who will take over the D-line group.  Ex-NFL player Peter Sirmon will be promoted from grad assistant to linebackers coach.

“I am grateful for the personal investment, hard work and passion that Chuck contributed to our program this past year,” Dooley said in a statement.  “He is a dear friend to me, and more importantly, will always be part of the Tennessee family.”

Why such glowing words for a man who spent just one year on the UT staff?  Public relations, partly.

Smith was one of the first positive “gets” of the Dooley era in Knoxville.  Vol fans, thirsty for someone with a connection to their program in the wake of the Lane Kiffin disaster, latched on to the former Vol D-lineman who had been working as a consultant with the New York Jets before returning to Knoxville.

In addition, Smith and Dooley were high school teammates years ago in Georgia.

Don’t be surprised to see Smith go back into private business for himself, working as a pass rush consultant to players and/or teams.

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SEC Off To 0-1 Bowl Start Following Vols’ Implosion

As the seconds ticked away and Tennessee held a lead, tens of thousands of Vol fans chanted “S-E-C, S-E-C, S-E-C,” at last night’s Music City Bowl.

And then they saw their team lose its second game this year following a victory celebration.  Call it “LSU Part Deux.”  North Carolina’s 30-27 double-overtime win over UT was bizarre if nothing else.

By now you know the details:

* Tennessee took a 20-17 lead with just over 5:16 left to play, but kicker Daniel Lincoln got off a low extra point attempt that was blocked.  And when doesn’t that come back to bite a team?

* After holding UNC on defense, the Vols went conservative on offense.  Instead of trying to gain a first down, UT coaches chose to run the ball three times, force Carolina to call its final timeouts, and punt the ball back to the Tar Heels with 31 seconds to play.  Tennessee’s punt sailed into the end zone giving UNC the ball at their 20 and half a minute to get into field-goal range.

* On the first play of the drive, Carolina connected on a 28-yard pass down the right sideline.  The receiver appeared to juggle the ball, but replays were not conclusive enough to overturn what was ruled a catch on the field.  Making matters worse for Tennessee, safety Janzen Jackson was flagged for launching himself at the receiver’s back and leading with his helmet.  One play, 43 yards, ball on Tennessee’s 37.

* As Carolina drove deeper into field goal range, Vol linebacker LaMarcus Thompson was lucky not to be flagged 15 yards for an obvious late hit in which he too led with his helmet.  But that didn’t matter…

* UNC coaches called one last run play — with no timeouts and the clock ticking — to try to get their kicker closer.  But confusion reined after the ballcarrier was stopped.  The Tar Heel kicking team tried to come onto the field, then were shooed away — tick, tick, tick.  Finally, quarterback TJ Yates snapped the ball and spiked it with one second remaining on the clock.

* But officials said the game was over.  Tennessee celebrated.  Only… the game wasn’t over. 

* After a check with the replay officials, it was noted that UNC did spike the ball with one second remaining.  The Heels were flagged 5 yards for having too many men on the field during the spike, but there is no 10-second run-off rule in college football.  As a result, UNC nailed a game-tying field with no time remaining.

* After the play, Vol D-lineman Gerald Williams threw his helmet and was flagged.  Now, why was that helmet toss flagged and LSU’s T-Bob Hebert’s not (an issue that became a big sticking point for UT fans after the Vols’ last-second loss at Baton Rouge in October)?  At the time, SEC coordinator of officials Rogers Redding told that the game was believed to have been over in Hebert’s case.  Assuming the same logic applied last night, Williams did not think the game was over (at least not when he tossed his helmet).  His helmet throw came as the two teams prepared for overtime. 

The loss was a kick in the pants for Derek Dooley and his Vols.  What other team has celebrated not one, but two victories this year only to have them erased?

With the loss, Tennessee falls to 6-7 on the season.  It’s the first time since the founding of the SEC in the 1930s that the UT program has suffered three losing seasons in a six-year span.

Some reaction:

* The details of the game.

* The rulebook played a huge role in Carolina’s win.

* As noted above, the Vols had plenty of chances to ice the game.

* Everyone in orange flashed back to Tennessee’s loss at LSU.

* Dooley said he “had a bad feeling when that thing hit zero (the first time) — and I didn’t celebrate.”

* On the lack of a 10-second run-off rule, UNC coach Butch Davis said:  “Our game isn’t the NFL.  I think ESPN Classic will probably be showing this 100 years from now.”

* On the bright side for Tennessee, the Vols’ freshmen played well again.

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Vols Headed to Music City

Tennessee accepted a bid to the Music City Bowl in Nashville, where it will face North Carolina on Dec. 30, the university announced Sunday evening. STORY | BOWL CENTRAL

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My bowl projections: UK to Birmingham

Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

Sure looks to me like Kentucky is headed to Birmingham for the BBVA Compass Bowl on Jan. 8, 2011.

But my guess is the Cats will play South Florida, not Louisville.

My bowl projections:

  • BCS title game: Auburn vs. Oregon
  • Sugar Bowl: Arkansas vs. Ohio State
  • Capital One Bowl: South Carolina vs. Michigan State
  • Outback Bowl: LSU vs. Iowa
  • Cotton Bowl: Alabama vs. Oklahoma
  • Gator Bowl: Florida vs. Illinois
  • Chick-fil-A Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Florida State
  • Liberty Bowl: Georgia vs. SMU
  • Music City Bowl: Tennessee vs. North Carolina
  • BBVA Compass Bowl: Kentucky vs. South Florida


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Could the Georgia Bulldogs and the Clemson Tigers Renew College Football Hostilities in the 2010 Music City Bowl?

Content provided by Dawg Sports.

At this point, I’m operating from the expectation that the Georgia Bulldogs are going to lose to the Auburn Tigers on the road and defeat the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at home. Admittedly, neither is a given: Auburn and Georgia both have winning records on the other’s home field, and the lower-ranked or unranked team has a remarkable propensity for pulling off the upset, so the Bulldogs have the Tigers right where they want them, but the Plainsmen are both better and due; the Engineers remain a legitimate threat, but the Red and Black’s pre-Thanksgiving bye week and the Golden Tornado’s loss of starting quarterback Joshua Nesbitt likely make the Classic City Canines the favorite against the Ramblin’ Wreck. In other words, I’m making presumptions, not predictions.

Assuming for the sake of argument that the Bulldogs finish 6-6 and bowl-eligible, the question then becomes: “What bowl will Georgia attend?” Chris Low projects the Athenians will face an ACC opponent in the Music City Bowl, and the Nashville-based postseason tilt gets the sixth pick of Atlantic Coast Conference clubs.

Right now, with a 3-3 league ledger and a 5-4 overall record, the Clemson Tigers are tied with Georgia Tech for seventh overall in the ACC standings. The Jungaleers beat the Yellow Jackets earlier this autumn. That’s right . . . we could be looking at Georgia and Clemson meeting in the Music City Bowl.

Of course, a Georgia-Clemson bowl matchup appeared likely last year, as well, but it did not come to pass, so it is way early to be booking hotel rooms in Opryland, but such a pairing would be an attractive one for the Music City Bowl, as fans of both schools would be excited over such a game following uneven seasons.

It would be neat to renew this ancient rivalry at a neutral site, as 54 of the 62 series meetings have taken place on campus. After squaring off seven straight seasons at the Georgia-Carolina Fairgrounds in Augusta between 1907 and 1913, the Bulldogs and the Tigers have met on a neutral field only once, when they met at Cater Athletic Park in Anderson in 1916. Georgia is 6-1-1 against Clemson in venues outside of the Classic City and Fort Hill.

For what it’s worth, since the two schools began their respective football programs in the 1890s, the Red and Black have never gone longer than seven years without facing the Orange and Purple on the gridiron. The last series meeting between Georgia and Clemson was in 2003, seven years ago. Either the Bulldogs and the Tigers will meet in a bowl game at the end of the 2010 campaign, or we currently find ourselves in the longest hiatus in series history.

This year’s Music City Bowl will be played on December 30, which falls on a Thursday. Georgia and Clemson have met on every day of the week except Sunday and Tuesday, with the Classic City Canines holding an all-time 8-0-2 advantage over the Fort Hill Felines in Thursday showdowns. Although there have been three seasons in which the Bulldogs and the Tigers met in the final game of the campaign for both teams, the nearby rivals have never met in December. Georgia holds winning records over Clemson in August (2-0), September (15-5-1), October (13-8-1), and November (11-4-2).

It hasn’t been a good season of Georgia football, but the autumn would end well if it culminated in a Music City Bowl matchup that produced the 63rd chapter of Fighting Like Cats and Dogs.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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