RTTs Locks & Keys Week 10: Killing Two Birds With One Stone As the L&K Plot Thickens

Al Messerschmidt

Rocky Top Talk's three "expert" pickers get a lot closer as Kid_B stays hot ... unlike Tennessee's recruiting.

I'm not going to lie to you: I've never heard of Joe Sanders.

So, when the 6-foot-5, 270-pound three-star defensive end committed to Tennessee on Wednesday night -- becoming the Vols' 19th verbal commitment -- it was met with a resounding "Meh" by me. Part of that was that I just don't know anything about the LaGrange (Ga.) senior defensive end. Part of it was I was neck-deep in audit work that kept me awake until 2 in the morning.

Since then, I've watched his film, and I have to admit that he looks like a pretty decent prospect. Sanders chose Tennessee over offers from Vanderbilt, Colorado, Indiana, South Alabama and Alabama State. He told 247 Sports that Georgia and Auburn may be close to offering.

I'm not going to lie to you ... I'm a bit underwhelmed by accepting Sanders' commitment. That's not a knock on the kid, who camped at UT, supposedly earned an offer back in the summer and waited until now to pull the trigger. It's just that I had hoped our recruiting board looked a little better at this stage of the game, especially with limited spots out there and the Vols' name in the thick of races for high-tiered prospects.

But let's face it, Vols fans. With the status of head coach Derek Dooley certainly in question this season and -- if he's retained -- definitely in the years to come and with UT losing every game to strong competition this year, fringe prospects like Sanders are who you're going to have to take right now. Is it unfair to Sanders to say he's a "fringe" prospect? I don't think so. I believe he'd be the first to tell you that he's not as highly-rated as a Tennessee target like Toby Johnson or Carl Lawson. But the chances the Vols land one of those guys are diminishing with each loss.

As I said, Sanders' film looks pretty good. He's not a can't-miss, but he dominates certain plays against some of the best competition in a loaded state of Georgia. He joins Jason Carr and Ben Bradley as Tennessee defensive line commitments. His primary recruiter was Derrick Ansley.

Will Sanders be a member of this recruiting class in a month? Like most everybody on UT's list, that depends on several things. Will Auburn or Georgia come through with a solid offer? Will Dooley still be Tennessee's coach? Will the next guy honor his commitment?

When the program's status is as up in the air as ours is right now, it's tough for me to get too excited or unexcited about a commitment [unless it's a massive name who says he's committed to the school and not the staff like Jalen Reeves-Maybin or Jason Carr].

Anyway, I didn't get to write this last night because I was swamped, so I thought we'd profile Sanders in the intro to Locks & Keys. Welcome aboard, Mr. Sanders!

Meanwhile, in matters that directly impact this site, our resident bottom-feeder Kid Bourbon is coming off back-to-back 5-1 weeks to climb within three games of Shep and I_S for the L&K lead. Let's take a look at what we did last week, how we're going to combat Vegas fading the public after losing its hiney last week and tell you what the Vols need to do to make it two consecutive wins [shy of firing Sal Sunseri, which unfortunately didn't happen.]

FIRST, A QUICK LOOK BACK

SHEP (Week 10: 3-3, Total 34-26)

  • Oregon -8 over Southern Cal. Chicken dinner. This was an exciting game. Oregon. Can. Score.
  • Penn State -3.5 over Purdue. This line was just inexplicable.
  • Texas Tech -7 over Texas. Texas is a weird weird team.
  • Alabama -8.5 over LSU. Sorry, Shep. The moneyline was clearly the play here.
  • Kansas State -8.5 over Oklahoma State. Good pick, but what do we think about K-State going forward sans Mr. Klein?
  • New Mexico State +22.5 over Auburn. Shep, you were retarded for picking this game. This simply cannot be sugarcoated.

KID B (Week 10: 5-1: Total: 31-29)

  • Oregon-8 over USC. Oregon is just crazy good. This cannot be argued.
  • Georgia Tech-8 over Maryland. KidB picks against a LB playing QB...and prevails.
  • Auburn-22.5 over New Mexico State: We're gonna let Auburn stay in the SEC for a little while longer.
  • UCF-11 over SMU: If Justin Timberlake were singing about UCF's treatment from Vegas, he'd be singing "where is the love, the love, the loooooove".
  • Air Force-7 over Army: KidB is good at picking service academies...so long as they aren't playing each other.
  • San Jose-19.5 @ Idaho: San Jose St == covering machine.

I_S (Week 10: 3-3, Total: 34-26)

  • Arkansas -9 over Tulsa. No chicken dinner for you!
  • Virginia +10.5 over NC State. ::tipping my hat to I_S:: Excellent pick.
  • Oregon State -4 over Arizona State. You can't lick these Beavers.
  • Ole Miss +14 over Georgia. This seemed like a good pick. UGA just puts their juggernaut caps on every now and again.
  • Mississippi State +7 over Texas A&M. Two words: Johnny. Football.
  • Rice/Tulane over 63.5. Nice work on this one. This went WAY over.

ONTO THE LOCKS

SHEP'S PICKS

  • Louisiana Tech -20.5 over Texas State. The Bulldogs average -- AVERAGE!! -- 240 more yards per game than the Bobcats. That's like an entire game for the 2011 Tennessee Volunteers. The Bulldogs are going to score a lot; and Texas State simply isn't.
  • Northwestern +10 over Michigan. I'm not sold on "Denard Robinson is a better player than anybody else in the Big 10 blahblahblah." Listen, the Wildcats have been solid gold for me this year, and I'll continue to ride them, especially when they're 10-point dogs to a mediocre team.
  • Penn State +8 over Nebraska. Speaking of Big 10 teams I've been riding, the Nittany Lions go into Blackshirt Country as pretty big underdogs. They may not win this game, but Bill O'Brien's boys will certainly keep it within a touchdown. I rarely take dogs, but this is my week to do that a couple times.
  • Kansas State -7.5 over Texas Christian. Somewhere along the way, I quit picking those middle-of-the-row Big 12 teams featuring all those teams that were the same team -- Texas, Texas Tech, TCU, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Blah, Blah, Blah. Kansas State isn't that team. They'll expose the Horned Frogs' inexperience ... even if Collin Klein isn't 100 percent.
  • Tulsa -3 over Houston. I think both of these offenses are awesome, and the Golden Hurricane nearly pulled off a stellar upset of an Arkansas team that has sort of re-found its identity. The Cougars just can't play defense, and while I like this one to be high-scoring, I think Tulsa wins pretty soundly.
  • Boise State -29 over Hawaii. Any time the Rainbow Warriors/Fighting Rainbows/Thuper-Duper Thuperthars!!!! have played anybody of any substance this year, they've been blown out of the water and are 1-7. They are making an argument for the worst team in the country as they are 104th in passing yards, 109th in rushing yards, 107th in points for and 122nd in points against. Why is this line so low?

KID B'S "Trending Upward" PICKS

  • Kent State-6.5 over Hipster Miami: I've been rolling with Kent State and the MACtion has been working out for me. So I'm gonna keep rolling.
  • La. Tech-20.5 over Texas State: The Bulldogs are going to roll over Texas, which is, in fact, a State. This game should not be close.
  • Notre Dame-19 over Boston College: I honestly don't think Vegas realizes how bad Boston College is. And the same is also true for....
  • Minnesota-3 over Illinois: Vegas clearly has not caught on to the fact that the former Fighter Zookers are actually worse this year without their former incompetent leader.
  • Tulane-1 over Memphis: I wouldn't have made this pick a month ago. But now that Tulane has Ryan Griffin back and healthy, their offense is rolling. Memphis is still Memphis. They'll get worked. Well....they'll get beat.
  • San Jose State-22 over New Mexico State: San Jose State is simply a covering machine, and New Mexico State is quite arguably the worst team in the country. Yes yes, I see you just raised your hands UMass and Hawaii. What did you need, again?
I_S's PICKS

  • UConn/Pitt under 44. This game has hangover written all over it for Pittsburgh. But UConn doesn't have the offense to take advantage of that and run up a lot of points. They do have the defense to keep Pitt out of the end zone for most of the day. I see the Huskies dragging Pitt into another of their 17-14, 20-6, 13-6 games.
  • New Mexico +2 over Wyoming. You could argue that New Mexico has been the better team most of the year. The exception is last week in Vegas. But weird stuff happens in Vegas, so I'm willing to give the Lobos a pass. I'll take them at home plus the points.
  • North Carolina -8 over Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech has been awful on defense. UNC can score. UNC also has an extra week to prepare for the option. Blowout potential in Chapel Thrill. I liked this one even better at 5.5 earlier this week.
  • SMU -14.5 over Southern Mississippi. Took me a while, but I've noticed that USM seems to get crushed every week, even against terrible teams. I expect that to happen this weekend.
  • Marshall -3 over UAB. UAB is bad. Their only FBS win is a comeback affair over Southern Miss. And Marshall has kinda had their number recently. Herd roll.
  • Tulane -1 over Memphis. The Green Wave have gotten their act together, and Memphis hasn't (throw out that win over Rice, it was played in standing water). Also strongly considered a few of Brad's picks--Tulsa and Boise State look pretty solid--and Ole Miss -3, just because I have more faith in Hugh Freeze than James Franklin. Don't ask me why I have four CUSA games on the pick/consideration list this week. Did that conference just become easy, or am I seeing things?

FIVE KEYS FOR TENNESSEE
  • Ignore the Buzz; And the Crowd. Let's face it: It's going to be tough for the team to blank out all the talk about coach Derek Dooley's future with the Vols just like it's going to be difficult not to notice 40,000 empty seats in Neyland Stadium. But the guys need to realize there is a football game to be played, and it's a very winnable conference game for a team that hasn't won one. It's do-or-die time.
  • Show Up Again On the Line. Tennessee's offensive line has been very impressive this season in neutralizing elite pass-rushers Jadaveon Clowney and Jarvis Jones for much of those two games. Now, the UT interior line will get its biggest major test when future first-round NFL defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson lines up hungry for a little Bray Sandwich. The former elite prospect leads the Tigers in tackles and is a force in the middle. Stopping him will go a long way in winning this game.
  • Get Off the Field. Not only has the worst defense in the history of Tennessee football failed to stop anybody this year, it's been in embarrassing fashion. They are near the bottom of the league in 20-yard, 30-yard and 40-plus yard plays. They are being gashed early and often -- and many of those times have been on third downs. It's time that the Vols forced a few punts, or they're going to lose again.
  • Win the Passing Battle. What has gone overlooked when discussing how bad Mizzou is this season is its defense is pretty good. Everybody knows Tennessee is good throwing the football with Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson, Zach Rogers and crew. But the Tigers are 15th in the nation in pass defense. It will be a solid test for Bray, but the way the junior is playing lately, you have to like the Vols' chances.
  • Cut Out the Idiot Plays. I'm looking at you and your spiking of the football after the long touchdown against Troy, Justin Hunter. What about unsportsmanlike calls on the defense? As the season has progressed and Bray has turned the ball over less and UT has improved at things like jumping offsides, it seems they've made bonehead killer plays. The Vols have simply got to be more disciplined that they've been. And, yeah, I'm also referring to having to call a timeout on a two-point conversion last week. The Vols need to be alert, get lined up and quit looking like this is the first time they've ever stepped onto a football field.
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