Pasquali’s Pix: Vols to collect sixth victory; Mocs to get seventh

Tennessee Athletics photo by Andrew Ferguson / Tennessee football coach Josh Heupel was unaware anyone was trying to steal his sideline signals during last season's run to the Orange Bowl.
Tennessee Athletics photo by Andrew Ferguson / Tennessee football coach Josh Heupel was unaware anyone was trying to steal his sideline signals during last season's run to the Orange Bowl.

The University of Michigan last week suspended football analyst Connor Stalions amid allegations he headed a sign-stealing operation against Wolverines foes.

This week, multiple media outlets have reported that Stalions had Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee filmed as well since they were potential Michigan opponents in the College Football Playoff. Josh Heupel's Volunteers were No. 1 in the initial CFP rankings last season but fell out of contention following November losses at Georgia and South Carolina.

"I really just heard of this a little while ago that it had happened," Heupel said Wednesday during his appearance on the Southeastern Conference's weekly teleconference. "It's obviously something where offensively, defensively and special teams, you try and hide your signals and constantly change them up and make sure nobody is getting a beat on you. For us, it's obviously important, because it's the form of communication we have with our guys who are out on the field."

Sports Illustrated reported Wednesday that Stalions purchased one ticket to Tennessee's 44-6 victory over Kentucky last October inside Neyland Stadium and transferred it three minutes later to a person who attended the game in a seat that faced the sideline of the Vols. That same outlet reported that Stalions bought tickets to the last two SEC title games, which have been won by Alabama and Georgia.

"I don't have a lot of information or background on all this sign-stealing stuff," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "I'm kind of focused on our team. Back in the old days when I was in the NFL, there was a time you could send out a scout and scout a game and personnel and that type of thing. I don't think it was geared towards sign-stealing, but that was allowed before they changed that rule."

Said Georgia's Kirby Smart when asked about Stalions: "I've never known anybody to do that. I've never heard of that."

Several coaches were asked Wednesday whether they would be in favor of having communication devices in the helmets of a quarterback and a linebacker, and the response was overwhelmingly in the affirmative.

"You can't steal signs or do any of that stuff if you have a helmet communicator," Saban said, "and I think it would be a good thing. It's worked out well in the NFL."

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Georgia redshirt junior receiver and former North Murray High School standout Ladd McConkey was named Wednesday as a finalist for the William V. Campbell Award, which recognizes academic success, football performance and exemplary leadership.

McConkey, who already has graduated with a degree in finance with a 3.85 GPA, is receiving an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship for being a finalist.

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Alabama isn't the only SEC team to reach an open date this week with a 7-1 record.

So has Missouri, which was impressive in last Saturday's 34-12 drubbing of South Carolina. The Tigers have quite the schedule still to navigate, however, traveling to top-ranked Georgia next week before hosting Tennessee and Florida and then closing at border rival Arkansas.

"We haven't really reflected on anything other than I'm excited to have a bye week to get a little time to get a haircut and spend some time with my family," Mizzou coach Eli Drinkwitz said. "We know that there is a whole lot of season left for us to play, and we're just trying to take it one at a time."

Mizzou's seven wins are its most since 2018.

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Arkansas coach Sam Pittman pulled the plug on offensive coordinator Dan Enos this past Sunday after Enos had just eight games in that role.

Pittman was asked Wednesday what went so wrong. Despite possessing fifth-year senior quarterback KJ Jefferson, the Razorbacks entered this week's open date ranked last in the league with 305.9 yards per game.

"I can't put my finger on it, because he's a hell of a coach, a good man and has had great success in his career," Pittman said. "Maybe we aren't a pocket-protection team. We probably averaged eight to 10 dropbacks a game in the previous three years, and maybe it was a little bit more when Feleipe Franks was here, but our quarterback wasn't great at just sitting in the pocket. Our wideouts couldn't get open. There were a lot of things.

"Maybe that's part of it, but everything was hard for us. Getting 3 yards was difficult, and I don't know exactly why, because Dan is a fine coach. I just know that we lost our spirit and that we've got to get it back."


Pasquali's Pix

South Carolina at Texas A&M: The greatest cross-divisional rivalry in SEC history comes to an end. Aggies 30, Gamecocks 13.

UTC at VMI: Not that this will determine Saturday's outcome, but the last time a VMI player got selected in the NFL draft was 1989. Mocs 27, Keydets 22.

Georgia vs. Florida: This is the third straight year a No. 1 Georgia has collided with an unranked Florida. In other words, the opposite of the Steve Spurrier era. Bulldogs 27, Gators 16.

Mississippi State at Auburn: The Tigers are 8-15 since Mississippi State came to the Plains two years ago and scored 40 straight points after falling behind 28-3. Bulldogs 17, Tigers 13.

Tennessee at Kentucky: The Vols under Heupel have yet to lose their next game after facing Alabama. Vols 34, Wildcats 26.

Vanderbilt at Ole Miss: The Rebels are welcoming the Commodores to homecoming for a 21st time, having gone 18-2 in the 20 previous meetings. Rebels 38, Commodores 19.

North Carolina at Georgia Tech: It still boggles the mind that the Tar Heels won four ACC titles from 1971-80 and haven't won any since. Tar Heels 31, Yellow Jackets 16.

Other picks:

Florida State 45, Wake Forest 28

Oklahoma 28, Kansas 21

Penn State 52, Indiana 9

Boston College 49, UConn 26

Clemson 24, N.C. State 17

Memphis 36, North Texas 35

Texas 41, Brigham Young 14

Oregon 30, Utah 23

Notre Dame 33, Pittsburgh 20

Louisville 27, Duke 22

Miami 42, Virginia 15

Tulane 38, Rice 29

USC 51, California 32

Washington 39, Stanford 10

Air Force 34, Colorado State 31

Ohio State 26, Wisconsin 7

UCLA 35, Colorado 24

Oregon State 20, Arizona 13

Last week:

Winners — 19

The Carolinas — 6

Pasquali is 160-40 overall (80.0%) this season.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com.

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