Mark Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs will welcome Butch Jones and his Tennessee Volunteers to go between the hedges on Saturday. The contest Georgia and Tennessee are attempting to win their first in-conference game of the season. The last time these two teams faced off in Neyland Stadium last season, Georgia barely escaped the Volunteers with an overtime victory of 34-31.
One could argue that that was significantly due to the fact that the Bulldogs were without their star running back Todd Gurley. This game also brought on a slew of injuries for the Dawgs, with three starters getting hurt and not returning to play the rest of the game. This year, they are healthier and the Volunteers’ defense will have a hard task at hand to stop Gurley, a Heisman front runner.
Tennessee, who is coming off of a bye week following their road loss to No. 4 Oklahoma, will have to make adjustments in their rush defense in order to stop the weapons Georgia has in their back field in Gurley and Sony Michel. The Volunteers gave up 146 yards on the ground against Oklahoma two weeks ago. As if anyone needs a reminder, Gurley is more than capable of producing those kinds of numbers all by himself.
If Gurley and company put up big numbers on the rush attack, Georgia could very well crush the Volunteers. Gurley’s best performance so far came against Clemson, where he put on clinic rushing for 198 yards. Gurley also added a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Tigers, and did so with ease.
However, if there is one thing I think we all can agree on, it’s that there is a big hole in Georgia’s secondary. With that said, it may be in Tennessee’s passing game that would give them a chance to beat Georgia in their house. Not only would this make the Dawgs 0-2 in the SEC East, it would send a message to any who doubts Butch Jones’ ability to coach in the SEC.
Tennessee has very talented receivers, who love making big plays downfield. Their top-three receivers are Marquez North, Josh Smith, Von Pearson who all average over 10 yards per catch; Pearson has the longest reception among the group, at 56 yards. This will definitely be a big test for Georgia’s secondary, which has had difficulty covering downfield.
Come Saturday, we will find out how Tennessee will respond to last year’s heartbreaking loss to Georgia in overtime at home. Or, if Georgia and their offense can get their first in-conference win and send the Vols back home with a 0-1 conference record.
Date: September 27, 2014
Where: Athens, GA – Sanford Stadium
Time: 12:00pm EST on ESPN
Spread: Georgia -17 (OddsShark.com)
*Section Photo credit to Scott Cunningham, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Jeff Blake, USA Today Sports