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Tennessee football: Cooper Mays talks noticeable difference between SEC, rest of nation after CFP title game

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To the rest of the nation, it may seem obnoxious, but the SEC didn’t speak its way into dominance. Results show that, and Tennessee football offensive lineman Cooper Mays could see it as well as anybody.

That difference was on hand when the Georgia Bulldogs dominated the TCU Horned Frogs 65-7 in the College Football Playoff national championship. Mays said it was evident Georgia would win after each team’s first drive.

“When they came out and stopped them and then took it right down the field, it wasn’t even particularly hard, it looked like, so I knew once they started getting key stops early in the game and scoring at will,” he said. “You could see how the offensive line of Georgia was just handling their defense pretty easily, so I could tell that it wasn’t going to be that close of a game.”

The SEC went 3-0 in New Years Six games, including Tennessee football beating the Clemson Tigers 31-14. They are 16-5 in CFP games since it began in 2015. Only one other conference, the ACC, has a winning record, at 6-4.

Remember, they also dominated the BCS era, winning seven straight national titles from 2006 to 2012. Mays said what sets the SEC apart is the line of scrimmage.

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“In the trenches, you see a big difference in the SEC and the other conferences,” he said. “There’s a few teams in the Big Ten that compete at a high level in the trenches.”

There’s no debating Tennessee football would’ve given Georgia a better game. The Vols looked significantly better than TCU on the road against Georgia in the rain, which slows their offense.

Despite those two difference, the rain and the road environment, UT only lost 27-13 and wasn’t out of it in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Mays admitted to losing interest in the TCU-Georgia game.

“It wasn’t a good game to watch,” he said. “I honestly turned it off at a certain point.”

Now, that’s not to say there aren’t similarities between the Vols and TCU. Both are offensive oriented teams, as TCU runs the air raid with Sonny Dykes, and Josh Heupel runs an offense that includes air raid schemes at UT.

Both also had Heisman caliber quarterbacks. TCU’s Max Duggan was invited to New York, and Hendon Hooker would’ve been invited if not for his season-ending injury. Mays said the biggest similarity between them is speed.

“They look really fast, I will say,” he said. “TCU has surprised me a lot. I didn’t watch them during the season at all, but when I turned their game on and saw how fast their whole skill unit was, it was pretty impressive for me to see that.”

However, at the same time, Mays did not like comparing what TCU runs to what Tennessee football runs. He noted the Vols have a niche offense that is different from other offensive-minded programs.

That niche, according to him, forces teams to pick their poison, as they can give up the deep ball with a focus on stopping the run or drop eight and allow the Vols to run it down their throats. The speed of the offense and way they stretch the field are what he says sets them apart.

“Splits and tempo are the things that mix together and create that different dynamic, but it’s just really hard to hide stuff, and it’s really hard to play defense against us because there’s so much space involved, you have to cover so much ground, and I think you’ve got to commit to one or the other,” he said. “You can commit to stopping the deep ball in the passing game, or you can commit to stopping the run and hoping your DBs can play man with our receivers and be more on an island.”

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