The No. 6 Georgia Bulldogs (3-1, 2-0 SEC) pulled out a huge win against another ranked opponent last week. The 44-41 victory over the LSU Tigers is still resonating around Athens. But for a team that has shown they really can’t do much to stop anyone’s offense, Georgia must be careful in Knoxville this week. The Tennessee Volunteers (3-2, 0-1 SEC) are hungry, and if the Bulldogs aren’t careful, they’ll be an early dinner.
While Georgia is trying to march their way down to a third straight SEC Championship game appearance, the Volunteers are simply trying to muster their second conference win in their last nine SEC games. Tennessee was manhandled in their SEC opener against the Florida Gators on Sept. 15, and the road to their first conference win of the season isn’t going to get any easier against Georgia.
The Dawgs have one of the best offenses in the country, and the Vols have shown themselves to be very seceptable to fast-paced, big play offenses. That means that even without Georgia star running back Todd Gurley (who is day-to-day with an ankle injury) to worry about, the Vols will still have to contend with what might be the deepest receiving group in the country, and a few other quality tailbacks as well.
If Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray has the kind of time in the pocket he did against LSU, then wideouts Justin Scott-Wesley, Chris Conley and Michael Bennett will run wild on the Vols, and tight end Arthur Lynch will only add to the defensive misery.
Things could get ugly on Rocky Top.
However, the one thing that the Vols have carried over from the Derek Dooley era is the ability to score points, and score them in bunches. Tennesse is averaging over 30 points per game this season. although against their two quality FBS opponents–Oregon and Florida–they managed only 15 points per game – less than half of their normal output.
Georgia is going to have to do a better job in the secondary protecting against the big plays, and especially watching for crossing routes that hit the soft zone in the middle of the field. One missed tackle on a play like that, and either Tennessee WR Alton Howard or Josh Smith (who are averaging over 14 yards per catch) will be off to the races.
The Vols also have a pretty good tailback of their own in Rajion Neal, who has had some big games this season, but much like the rest of the team, had much less productive games against teams like Oregon and Florida.
This might be a good week for the Georgia defense to try and finally hold an opponent under 20 points.
But the biggest factor in games like this is a letdown for the heavily favored team, and the Bulldogs are coming off a huge emotional win, and are favored by 10.5 points over the Volunteers. CBS Sports has now made this their game of the week, being televised at the prime 3:30 time slot, so Tennessee will be doing their best to make a good impression on a national audience.
Georgia has a history during the last few seasons of coming out flat on the road in big games, and despite the fact that the Vols are unranked and not considered a contender in the SEC right now, you’d best know that this is always a big game.
All of that combined could spell disaster for the Dawgs if they don’t have their heads right for this game. Traveling to Knoxville is never easy, and this will be no exception.
Michael Collins is an Atlanta sports humorist, columnist, radio host and owner of Georgia Sports Craze. He is a member of the FWAA and eats peanut butter straight from the jar. Follow on Twitter @GaSportsCraze on Facebook here or on Google here