UGA Football: Georgia at Tennessee Preview & Predictions
The Georgia Bulldogs are coming off of one of the biggest wins in the Mark Richt era, as the Bulldogs rallied to beat No. 6 LSU 44-41 this past Saturday. As a result, many pundits are putting the Georgia Bulldogs on upset alert this week with the possibility of an emotional letdown.
Moreover, this series is filled with examples of the lesser team upsetting the higher-ranked team. Can Tennessee shock the Bulldogs this weekend? Will Georgia remain focused and put away the Vols early?
Why Tennessee can win this game
The Tennessee Volunteers have one of the most talented offensive lines in the country. Antonio Richardson, James Stone and Zach Fulton all made various All-SEC Preseason lists. Ja’Wuan James is also a potential early-round pick and currently on the watch list for the Outland Trophy.
This unit has underperformed for the Vols this season, but the talent is there, and if they put it all together Saturday, it could mean trouble for Georgia.
The Vols will need to force turnovers to have a shot in this game. However, coming into Saturday’s game, they have been outstanding in creating turnovers. Tennessee has forced 15 turnovers, which is the best in the SEC and ranks the Vols in the top 10 nationally.
Tennessee has not been very good on offense, as the team is dead last in the SEC in yards per game. However, if the Volunteers can create turnovers and make plays on special teams, they will be in this game.
Why Georgia can win this game
Georgia’s offense is the most balanced offense in the nation. The Bulldogs can beat you with the pass, the run or a combination of both. Star tailback Todd Gurley will likely miss this game with a sprained ankle. However, backup Keith Marshall would still be the top running back in the game.
This should be another big game for Heisman candidate Aaron Murray, who needs just 99 yards to pass former Georgia star David Greene’s SEC record of 11,528 yards passing. Murray has been rock solid this season with an efficiency rating of 191.1, which is the top mark in the SEC and also ranks fourth nationally.
In the running game, expect Georgia to try and get Keith Marshall to the edge to expose the Vols linebackers, who appear to have a hard time getting to the edge on film. I also expect to see the Bulldogs use their tight ends more this weekend as well.
The Bulldogs defense has not been dominant early in the season. In fact, the unit has been atrocious defending the pass. However, Tennessee has been equally bad in throwing the football. To beat Georgia, you have to be able to take advantage of its young secondary.
This will be a tall task because Tennessee will start two true freshmen in its three-receiver set, and five of the team’s top six wide receivers are either freshmen or sophomores.
The Vols will have to establish the running game to have any chance to compete in this game. Look for UGA defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to once again stack the box to stop the run and dare Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley to beat the Bulldogs with his arm.
While the Bulldogs have been inadequate in their attempted pass defense, they have been very good against the run the past two weeks. They held North Texas to a mere seven yards rushing in Week 3 and the LSU Tigers to 77 yards and only 2.1 yards per carry.
Last week I called out the Georgia fanbase as the X-factor, and they responded with an atmosphere that will be talked about for many years. This week the X-factor will be similar. Tennessee will wear its new “smokey” gray uniforms for Saturday’s game against the Georgia Bulldogs, and the fans will be ecstatic.
I live in Tennessee, and the fans are excited much like the Bulldog nation was the first time the Bulldogs wore the black jerseys.
This is important because the one game the offensive line really struggled was Clemson. One of the biggest contributing factors to the line’s struggles was lack of communication because of crowd noise when the Bulldogs were on offense.
Murray is very good at calling audibles at the line. However, the crowd noise could become an issue once again. As a result, the Bulldogs will need to gain yards on first down. Doing so will allow them to go into their hurry-up offense and quiet the crowd.
Quarterback Justin Worley has been inconsistent at best for Tennessee as he has only completed 65 of 116 passes with eight touchdowns and six interceptions. The running backs for Tennessee are dangerous but not elite.
If Georgia comes with the same defensive plan as it did against LSU, look for the Vols to use short hitches, curls, slants and screens to make the Georgia defense cover the entire field. If Tennessee finds any success early, it will likely go to a hurry-up offense.
In the end, while there have been some major upsets in the history of this series, none of those games had the talent discrepancy that this game has. The Vols will keep this game close early, but talent will win out.
Score Prediction: UGA 48, Tennessee 21
Stat Prediction: Murray four total touchdowns