Pasquali’s Pix: Vols, Mocs on the verge of 4-1 season starts

Ole Miss Athletics photo by Joshua McCoy / Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin has not been a fan of the new clock rules in college football.
Ole Miss Athletics photo by Joshua McCoy / Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin has not been a fan of the new clock rules in college football.

College football has reached the final weekend of September, creating the biggest sample size yet as to whether the NCAA's new clock rules are having a profound effect.

The clock is no longer stopping after first downs except for the final two minutes of each half.

"I just think the game has been shortened with the management of the clock," Tennessee's Josh Heupel said Wednesday during the weekly Southeastern Conference teleconference. "I don't think it necessarily changes the way the game is played during the course of the first quarter and the second quarter, but it has shortened the game. You have to maximize your opportunities, and I think over these next few weeks we'll have something more definitive as far as possession-wise and play-wise in terms of it impacting the game.

"When you get into conference play, you get a truer sense of it versus out of conference."

According to The Athletic, games involving at least one Bowl Subdivision team have transpired in three hours and 16 minutes through the first three weeks of this season, which is down from 3:22 through the first three weeks last year. Such games have contained an average of 176.2 plays compared to 182.3 last season, which falls into the projections that each contest would have five to seven fewer plays.

LSU coach Brian Kelly used "very little" when asked to describe the impact.

"The possessions tighten up a little bit, so we feel like maximizing each possession is absolutely crucial to us on offense," Kelly said. "Other than that, we're not seeing it tactically other than it may shrink a possession, and that's really about it. The shrinking of one possession means you're really detailing out your play-calling and that everything you do is just not throwaways.

"You have to be able to be precise on every play."

Kelly's Tigers certainly handled the clock well in last Saturday's 34-31 topping of Arkansas, zipping three plays in 75 yards for a touchdown in the final minute of the first half and covering 72 yards in nine plays and consuming 5:01 before their winning field goal with four seconds left.

Lane Kiffin has been the league's most outspoken coach about the change, wondering aloud earlier this month whether fans of Taylor Swift and Morgan Wallen would be happy to pay the same prices to see them sing two or three fewer songs.

"I just think it was unnecessary," the Ole Miss coach said. "I don't notice it during the game, especially with the tempo that we usually try. I don't know if it's accurate when people say it has created more commercials. It's kind of a shame if that's the case, but I don't know that.

"There was no need. The game was fine."

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Two years ago, Georgia receiver Ladd McConkey went to Auburn as a redshirt freshman and racked up five catches for 135 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown, in a 34-10 win.

The former North Murray High School standout has yet to play this season due to an issue with his back that recently resulted in him getting shut down for two weeks.

"It's been a walk before you run and run before you sprint, and then sprint and get contact," Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said Wednesday. "We're kind of in stages in that. It's one of those things where we don't know what's going to cause it to frustrate him or bother him, and he has to trust it.

"He's doing exactly what the doctors have told him, and we've had specialists meet with him."

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SEC teams are allowed to travel 74 players to road games within the league this season, up from 70 before.

"In today's era and climate, it's been beneficial," Florida's Billy Napier said. "There are other leagues that carry 80 players. I think the SEC kind of came to an agreement to meet in the middle. I do think the more players that you can keep engaged, the better.

"Special teams is ultimately the area where it helps you the most."

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Texas A&M announced Wednesday that starting quarterback Conner Weigman is out for the season with a foot injury, so Max Johnson now has the reins.

Johnson spent his first two seasons at LSU, throwing for 27 touchdowns in 2021 and defeating Texas A&M. He replaced Weigman in last Saturday's 27-10 victory over Auburn and was 7-of-11 passing for 123 yards and two scores.

"He's been a starter in this league, and he's played a lot of football," Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher said. "I've said before that we have two starting quarterbacks."

Next in line for the Aggies now are Jaylen Henderson, a redshirt sophomore who began his career at Fresno State, and freshman Marcel Reed, who starred at Nashville's Montgomery Bell Academy.


Pasquali's Pix

Florida at Kentucky: The Gators have won 33 of the last 36 series meetings. The Wildcats have won the last two. Gators 24, Wildcats 19.

Texas A&M vs. Arkansas: The loser of this one could certainly describe its September as a major disappointment. Aggies 31, Razorbacks 28.

Georgia at Auburn: The Tigers have failed to reach 100 passing yards in each of their last five games against Power Five opponents. Bulldogs 33, Tigers 10.

Bowling Green at Georgia Tech: Haynes King has thrown for 1,132 yards and 11 touchdowns, the most yards ever for a Yellow Jackets quarterback through four games. Jackets 48, Falcons 17.

Missouri at Vanderbilt: The Commodores will reach the midway mark of their season at 2-4. Tigers 27, Commodores 24.

UTC at Wofford: The Mocs are seeking to maintain their average of 47.5 points this season in SoCon games. Mocs 38, Terriers 13.

South Carolina at Tennessee: Josh Heupel is undefeated so far in SEC home openers, downing South Carolina in 2021 and Florida last year. Volunteers 33, Gamecocks 24.

Alabama at Mississippi State: Zach Arnett's Bulldogs could be 0-3 in league play before October arrives. Crimson Tide 34, Bullies 13.

Other picks:

Western Kentucky 29, Middle Tennessee 28

Louisville 38, N.C. State 31

LSU 34, Ole Miss 27

Penn State 45, Northwestern 16

USC 56, Colorado 25

Clemson 27, Syracuse 22

Boston College 22, Virginia 19

Michigan 41, Nebraska 14

Texas 40, Kansas 13

Memphis 33, Boise State 30

Oregon 42, Stanford 9

Oklahoma 35, Iowa State 12

Notre Dame 31, Duke 24

Washington 46, Arizona 17

Pittsburgh 24, Virginia Tech 21

Oregon State 20, Utah 15

Iowa 17, Michigan State 10

Last week:

Winners — 22

Instigating octogenarians — 3

Pasquali is 86-14 (86.0%) this season with one bingo, picking Florida State over Clemson 31-24.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com.

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