DID YOU KNOW?
Junior Robert Meachem is one catch shy of the 100 career receptions necessary to qualify for the NCAA Division I-A receiving-yards-per-catch leaderboard. His current average of 17.3 yards per catch would rank fourth nationally among all active Division I-A players (and first among active SEC players).
SERIES HISTORY & NOTES
Tennessee hosts LSU for the first time since 2001, as the Tigers and Vols meet for the 29th time at Neyland Stadium Saturday. An open date following LSU's Oct. 21 rout of Fresno State has given the Tigers an extra week of preparations for Saturday's clash on Rocky Top.
The Vols took the last meeting between the two teams in historic fashion, turning a 17-point, fourth-quarter deficit into a 30-27 overtime win in Baton Rouge last year. The Vols trailed by as much as 21 points in the second half; both deficits rank as the largest UT has overcome in school history.
Second-year LSU head coach Les Miles is 0-1 against the Vols, and UT head coach Phillip Fulmer is 3-2 against the Tigers. Tennessee leads the all-time series 20-5-3, and UT has lost just once in Knoxville in 13 games against the Bayou Bengals.
The five Louisiana natives on UT's 2006 roster are Lucas Taylor (Carencro), Chris Brown (Destrehan), Jarrod Shaw (Lafayette), Ja'Kouri Williams (Plaquemine) and Jonathan Wade (Shreveport).
MEACHEM ONE OF 14 BILETNIKOFF SEMIFINALISTS
Junior wideout Robert Meachem is one of 14 semifinalists for the 13th annual Biletnikoff Award, presented annually by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation to the top receiver in college football.
Meachem leads the SEC and ranks fourth in the nation in receiving yards per game (108.5) through eight contests. The Tulsa, Okla., native has piled up 868 yards on 45 catches for six touchdowns to help pace one of the SEC's most potent offenses.
Meachem has also been one of the nation's biggest surprises. Despite leading UT in receiving yardage in each of his two previous seasons on Rocky Top, he wasn't even listed on the preseason "Watch List" for the Biletnikoff Award finalists. He's leaped to the forefront, however, after setting new season-highs for catches and receiving yards in just six games this year. Meachem is just one catch shy of 100 for his career.
|NCAA's Top Receiving Trios |
|(2006 Average Yards Per Game)|
|1. Williams-Dubois-Harris (NMSU)||251.2|
|2. Meachem-Swain-Smith (UT)|| 215.0|
|3. Bess-Dickerson-Rivers (Hawaii) ||211.7|
|4. McKnight-Carlson-Samardzija (Notre Dame) || 206.8|
|5. Davis-Bowe-Doucet (LSU) || 202.3|
|Must have played in 75 percent of games|
MEACHEM, SWAIN, SMITH COMPRISE NATION'S SECOND-BEST RECEIVING TRIO
Tennessee wide receivers Robert Meachem, Jayson Swain and Bret Smith comprise the second-best receiving duo in NCAA Division I-A in terms of average yards per game this season. The three have combined for 1,671 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, with Meachem totaling 868 yards, Swain gaining 450 and Smith (who has played in seven of UT's eight games) totaling 343 yards for a combined per-game average of 215.0 yards. Each Vol has recorded a multi-TD game this season, with Meachem leading the pack with two multi-TD outings (California and Air Force). All three were part of UT's 2003 signing class.
TENNESSEE PLAYS 16th GAME WITH ESPN COLLEGE GAMEDAY ON SITE
CUTCLIFFE'S MAGIC NUMBER = 30
Tennessee has appeared in 15 games when the crew from ESPN College Gameday was on site. The Vols' record in those contests is 6-9 (.400), including a 4-4 mark away from Rocky Top. Since the show hit the road in 1993, the higher-ranked team has won 70 percent of the time (101-44). This weekend's game marks the 40th time the show has broadcast from an SEC site (the most of any conference) and the first time it has been on site for a Tennessee-South Carolina game.
During David Cutcliffe's two stints as Tennessee's offensive coordinator (1993-98 and 2006), the Vols have been awfully tough to beat when they score at least 30 points. In fact, with Cutcliffe gripping the offensive reins, Tennessee has scored at least 30 points in 53 different games; and UT owns an impressive 51-2 (.962) record when that happens. Cutcliffe's UT teams score at least 30 points in 64.6 percent of their games (53 of 82). The Vols average 34.6 in those contests.
When Cutcliffe's UT offense totals at least 30 points, Tennessee outscores its opponents by an average of 25.6 points per game (42.81 ppg to 17.23 ppg).
Below are some of Tennessee's scoring breakdowns with Cutcliffe as offensive coordinator:
- Home SEC Games: 34.5 ppg
- Home Non-Conference Games: 38.4 ppg
- Road SEC Games: 35.3 ppg
- Road Non-Conference Games: 29.0 ppg
- Neutral-Site Games: 27.5 ppg
VOLS OFFENSE LEANING HEAVILY ON THE PASSING GAME
Not since 1997 -- Peyton Manning's senior season -- has Tennessee's offense relied so heavily on the passing game as this year. Through eight games, the Vols are averaging 174.6 more passing yards than rushing yards per game (288.1 to 113.5). In 1997, UT averaged 180.7 more passing yards per game (331.8 to 151.1).
During UT's 1998 national championship season, the Vols actually averaged 23.8 more rushing yards than passing yards per game (211.3 to 187.5). But from 1999 through 2005, Tennessee averaged 76.7 more passing yards than rushing yards per outing. That number has risen significantly this season by nearly 100 yards (97.9).
VOLS OFFENSIVE NUMBERS RANK AMONG NATION'S BEST
Tennessee ranks among the top-20 teams in NCAA Division I-A in three offensive stat categories this season.
UT's passing efficiency rating of 161.62 is ninth-best in the nation. The Vols also rank ninth in the country with 288.1 yards of passing offense per game. Tennessee ranks 18th nationally in scoring with 32.3 ppg.
The Vols' offensive numbers place them atop the SEC rankings in three different categories: passing offense, red-zone offense (93.3 scoring percentage) and third-down conversion percentage (54.1).
VOLS RIDING THREE STRAIGHT FOURTH-QUARTER COMEBACKS
When it matters most, the Vols are getting things done.
For the third time in as many games, Tennessee came-from-behind after three quarters to claim a victory. The stretch marks the first time ever under coach Phillip Fulmer that the Vols have turned the trick in three consecutive games.
- The Vols trailed Georgia 27-24 before blowing out the Bulldogs over the last 15 minutes and easily winning 51-33. Antonio Wardlow covered up a blocked punt for a touchdown to spark the comeback, and Arian Foster added a pair of 1-yard dives into the end zone to cruise past previously unbeaten Georgia.
- After struggling on offense for most of the game, UT faced a 13-6 deficit heading into the fourth quarter against rival Alabama. Following a James Wilhoit field goal, quarterback Erik Ainge engineered a nine-play, 70-yard drive for the go-ahead touchdown - Foster again from 1-yard out - with just more than three minutes left to play.
- The Vols again needed to overcome a three-point deficit, 17-14, on the road against South Carolina, and Ainge brought UT back with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Bret Smith. Jonathan Hefney followed that with a career-long, 65-yard punt return that set up Foster for a 5-yard scoring run, and the Vols won 31-24.
Ainge is also developing a reputation as one of the most-clutch quarterbacks in the country. With a pair of fourth-quarter comebacks on his résumé as a freshman - at home against Florida and on the road against Mississippi - the junior signal-caller has now led five such victories during his stint at Rocky Top.
BAYOU IMPORTS STARRING FOR UT
A pair of imports from the Bayou Bengals' backyard has played an integral role in No. 8 Tennessee's fast start this season.
Tight end Chris Brown -- a native of Destrahan, La., and a Jesuit High School graduate -- has been one of quarterback Erik Ainge's favorite targets, catching at least one pass in each of the Vols' eight games.
The junior's 18 catches this season have already established a new career-high, and Brown needs just 13 more yards to match his career-high of 141 set during his sophomore campaign.
Shreveport native Jonathan Wade, the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Week, leads the Vols in big plays on the other side of the ball.
The senior's interception of South Carolina quarterback Syvelle Newton tied him for the team lead and gave him a new career-best with three picks this season. Wade also added his fourth TFL in the win over the Gamecocks, and the Evangel Christian High School product also has deflected an SEC-leading 10 passes.
VOLS, TIGERS ATOP SEVERAL STAT CHARTS
Saturday's UT-LSU game shapes up as a stat geek's dream.
In five Southeastern Conference team statistical categories and two individual rankings, the Vols and Tigers are at the top of the charts. LSU leads the league and Tennessee ranks second in scoring offense, total offense and passing efficiency. The Vols pace the SEC and LSU is a strong second in passing offense and third-down conversions. In addition, Tennessee's "Orange Zone" offense meets LSU's stingy "Red Zone" defense in a clash of top-rated units.
The Vols are tied for league honors with only six sacks allowed, while LSU has 26 sacks against opposing quarterbacks to lead the conference.
Individually, UT quarterback Erik Ainge has a lead over second-place JaMarcus Russell in total offense, while the Tigers junior returns the favor in pass efficiency rating. The Vols have additional conference leaders in receiving yards per game (Robert Meachem), punt returns (Jonathan Hefney) and passes defensed (Jonathan Wade).
KELL TO BE HONORED DURING PREGAME
Former Tennessee All-America Chip Kell (1968-70) will be honored during a pregame ceremony Saturday for his 2006 induction into the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame.
Kell is the 21st Vol to be selected to college football's shrine.
AINGE EXTRA EFFICIENT IN FOURTH QUARTER
During the fourth quarter of Tennessee's last three games, quarterback Erik Ainge has completed 73.3 percent of his passes (22 of 30) for 300 yards and two touchdowns. In each of the three games, the Vols overcame fourth-quarter deficits thanks largely to Ainge's prowess in the passing game.
During that same span, Tennessee has had 12 offensive possessions. On three of those possessions the Vols were milking the clock. But on the nine possessions during which UT made an effort to drive the ball, it scored eight times (six TDs and two FGs).
Ainge's passer efficiency rating during the last three fourth quarters stands at 179.33. That's a significant increase from his overall season rating of 158.41, which ranks second in the SEC and 11th nationally.
Junior starter Erik Ainge ranks second in the SEC and 11th in NCAA Division I-A with a 158.41 passer efficiency rating this year ... Ainge is 15-4 as a starter and ranks sixth on UT's all-time passing yards chart (4,402) and eighth on the school's all-time total offense list (4,261) ... Ainge's five best career games (yardage-wise) have all come this season, and he has set season-highs for completions and passing yards ... Redshirt freshman Jonathan Crompton has played in four games this year.
Sophomore TB Arian Foster started at South Carolina and now has five TDs in the last three games (four in the fourth quarter) ... Redshirt freshman TB LaMarcus Coker (56.1 ypg) is currently sidelined with a knee injury suffered vs. Alabama Oct. 21 ... Redshirt freshman Montario Hardesty (3.3 ypc) maintains the Vols' depth at tailback ... The Vols are averaging 113.5 rushing yards per game and have scored 13 rushing TDs on the year while averaging 3.6 yards per carry.
Robert Meachem continues to lead UT's receiving efforts, pacing the squad with 45 catches for 868 yards and six TDs ... Meachem ranks fourth in the nation with 108.5 receiving yards per game ... Senior Bret Smith has emerged as of late, totaling 23 catches for 258 yards and four TDs over the last four games ... Senior Jayson Swain, while battling an ankle injury the last three games, is second on the squad with 460 receiving yards and five TDs ... Starting TE Chris Brown ranks fourth on the team with 18 catches this year ... Tennessee averages 288.1 passing yards per game and 13.4 yards per catch this season.
Tennessee's six sacks allowed this season are tied for the fewest in the SEC ... Preseason All-America OT Arron Sears has made 32 career starts ... Excluding Sears, UT's current offensive-line starters (David Ligon, Josh McNeil, Anthony Parker and Eric Young) have just 35 starts between them ... The UT coaches have expressed confidence in the development of backups Chris Scott (OT), Ramon Foster (OG) and Vladimir Richard (OG).
Tennessee is allowing 124.6 rushing yards per game this season and UT's opponents are averaging 3.6 yards per rush ... Starting DEs Antonio Reynolds and Xavier Mitchell have combined for 16 tackles in the last two games ... Preseason All-America DT Justin Harrell is out for the season with a ruptured biceps tendon ... In Harrell's absence, preseason All-SEC pick Turk McBride has moved from end to tackle and is performing well inside ... McBride's shift has increased playing time for DEs Robert Ayers and Wes Brown.
Senior Marvin Mitchell ranks fourth in the SEC with 8.6 tackles per game ... Mitchell returned an INT 17 yards for a TD vs. South Carolina last Saturday ... Sophomore Jerod Mayo ranks sixth in the league with 7.8 stops per game ... Mayo's five sacks on the year rank him tied for seventh in the SEC (0.62 pg) ... SLB Ryan Karl averages 5.2 stops per game ... Redshirt freshman Rico McCoy is making the most of his playing time, as he has 15 tackles this year.
South Carolina's Syvelle Newton was the first passer to throw for at least 200 yards vs. UT all season (230) ... Junior FS Jonathan Hefney ranks 12th in the SEC in tackles with 6.8 per game and has three INT this year ... Senior DB Jonathan Wade leads the Vols with 17 "big plays" on defense this year and shares the team lead in INTs with Hefney with three ... Sophomore SS Demetrice Morley did not start at South Carolina for disciplinary reasons, but he did log an INT in the games closing moments ... Ricardo Kemp had a career-high seven tackles last Saturday at South Carolina.
Senior placekicker James Wilhoit totaled seven points at South Carolina to move into fourth place on UT's all-time scoring list with 293 points ... Sophomore punter Britton Colquitt is averaging 46.4 yards per punt this year to rank second in the SEC ... Jonathan Hefney is averaging 21.1 yards per punt return over the last two games ... For the year, the Vols average 15.3 yards on punt returns and 16.1 yards on kick returns ... UT's opponents are averaging 13.1 and 19.8 yards on punt and kick returns, respectively.