SEC Battle in Knoxville

Following a blowout victory over a lesser nonconference opponent, Tennessee is set to close the regular season against three SEC opponents with a spot in the conference championship game at stake.

The 22nd-ranked Volunteers begin their final push for the SEC East crown on Saturday as they try to slow down Arkansas and Heisman Trophy hopeful Darren McFadden at Neyland Stadium.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Arkansas -1 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday's game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 61% of bets for this game have been placed on Arkansas -1 (View College Football bet percentages).

After defeating then-No. 15 South Carolina 27-24 in overtime on Oct. 27, Tennessee (6-3, 3-2) routed Louisiana-Lafayette 59-7 last Saturday in its most lopsided victory in seven years.

The Vols rushed for a season-high 273 yards after gaining 204 on the ground in their last two games combined.

"It's a confidence builder anytime you can put a lot of points on the board like that," said tailback Arian Foster, who rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. "We have three big games left, and everybody knows we control our own destiny."

Tennessee is a half-game back of SEC East-leading Georgia, but the Vols beat the 10th-ranked Bulldogs 35-14 on Oct. 6. Tennessee must close out the season with wins over Arkansas (6-3, 2-3), Vanderbilt and No. 24 Kentucky to play in the SEC championship game for the first time since 2004.

"Getting back into the conference is a big deal," Vols coach Phillip Fulmer told the team's official Web site. "We prepared well last week, working a lot on fundamentals, and it showed. Hopefully, it will carry over into this football game with Arkansas."

Tennessee lost to the Razorbacks 31-14 last Nov. 11 as McFadden rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns, but that's nothing compared to what he did last weekend.

McFadden is coming off an incredible performance in Arkansas' 48-36 victory over the then-No. 23 Gamecocks last Saturday, as he tied an SEC record with 321 rushing yards previously set by Vanderbilt's Frank Mordica in 1978.

McFadden, who also threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Robert Johnson, scored on an 80-yard run en route to joining Georgia's Herschel Walker as the only SEC players to run for 1,000 yards as a freshman, sophomore and junior.

McFadden was the Heisman runner-up last year, but his stock dropped this season after averaging 71.3 yards in his previous three games.

"Darren McFadden gave it his all. He is like another Barry Sanders," said Razorbacks coach Houston Nutt, who was on the staff at Oklahoma State when Sanders won the Heisman in 1988. "The bigger the game, the better (McFadden) plays, and that is why he deserves the Heisman."

He wasn't the only Arkansas running back to have a remarkable game, though, as Felix Jones rushed for 166 yards and three touchdowns on just 13 carries. Arkansas amassed 542 rushing yards last Saturday, the second-most in school history behind a 594-yard effort against Pittsburgh State in 1936.

The Razorbacks are playing some of their best football of the season, winning a season-high three straight games by an average of 32 points.

The Volunteers, meanwhile, are allowing an average of 167.7 yards on the ground, fourth-worst in the 12-team SEC. They allowed the Ragin' Cajuns to rush for 234 yards on 48 attempts last week, and gave up 259 yards on 45 carries in last year's loss at Arkansas.

That defeat snapped a three-game winning streak in the series of the Vols, but they've won the last five home meetings since a 25-24 defeat in 1992.

Tennessee has won all five home games this year, and has not won six straight at Neyland Stadium in a single season since taking all seven contests there in 1999.

Vols senior quarterback Erik Ainge, who ranks third in the SEC in passing yards (2,138) and touchdowns (15), missed last season's game against the Razorbacks with an ankle injury.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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