Game Preview: Tennessee vs. Georgia
Sat 10 Oct 2009 • 12:21 pm ET • Neyland Stadium • Knoxville
Hanging On For Dear Life
This matchup is interesting from the standpoint that (1) a lot is riding on the outcome for both teams and (2) performances by both teams so far leave you scratching your head. Let’s take the second point first.
The collective Bulldog psyche must be on lithium by now. They start the season by getting blindsided at Oklahoma State (Stillwater is a pretty tough place to play), then nearly score 100 points against the collective Gamecocks and Razorbacks, have some good fortune against a pretty ordinary Arizona State, and then, well I don’t really know how to describe that loss against LSU. Blame it on the poor officiating decision near the end (excessive celebration? Ridiculous call!)? Or was it scoring nothing in the first half? Or was it the meltdown of the ‘Dogs’ special teams? All of the above – I still don’t really know how to take that game.
So all of that results in this question: which Georgia Bulldog football team shows up at Neyland Stadium for a Saturday nooner? To be a bit provocative and exaggerative: (1) Georgia has no running game; (2) but they can throw that orb; and (3) when they have the ball, the ‘Dogs like to give it away. So actually, that’s what I expect to see this weekend. Except that I think I would watch for Georgia’s freshman RB Washaun Ealey to change the fortunes of Georgia’s running attack. And, I don’t see Tennessee’s defense having as much trouble with Georgia’s passing attack as they did against Auburn (their passing game was out of a very non-conventional offensive scheme plus a surprisingly mobile QB) and Ohio (a QB that ran around all night long). Bottom line – Georgia’s game is rather conventional compared to recent opponents’ that gave the Vols lots of trouble.
Tennessee? First, the most predictable parts are: (1) the QB is in over his head when decision-making is required, and bad things are apt to happen; (2) they are at their best when running; (3) the lines on both sides of the ball can wear you out; and (4) there is no quit – 60 minutes of physical punishment. That’s what I expect from the orange jerseys.
But, I’m a little worried about the running game, to be honest. We’re riding the horse of Montario Hardesty pretty hard. He’s getting banged up. He is banged up. So, if I’m prepared to keep an eye on Georgia’s Washaun Ealey, should Bulldog fans be watching for Vol freshmen David Oku and Bryce Brown? Only if Hardesty goes down. I think Kiffin is giving our senior horse every opportunity to get first-team all SEC honors, if not All-American status. He deserves that opportunity. But he’s either going to get it or he’s going to flame out due to overuse. And that’s why I’m getting a little nervous about relying on pounding the rock all afternoon.
Here’s what I’d like to see. First, put the leash back on Crompton (backup Nick Stevens isn’t going to get a sniff of action, no matter how much I would like to see it). He simply can’t be trusted to throw vertically. UNLESS. Unless we try to mix up the attack with some hurry-up offense in situations other than the end of either half. For some reason, Crompton actually looks competent in a hurried scheme. Second, give Brown and Oku more carries and keep Montario as fresh as possible. And third, give the defense the license to endlessly harass Joe Cox – make his afternoon an absolute hell.
A variety of tempo with our offense, combined with winning the time of possession (remember that Georgia doesn’t chew clock with their running game) to keep our defense fresh (they were gassed in the second half against Auburn) will get the job done.
Which brings me to the first point. Tennessee and Georgia both have to get the job done Saturday. Let’s say the Vols have no chance in their next game which is at Bama. So a loss to Georgia Saturday means that after Tennessee’s next game, the Vols would be 2-5. That is a scary proposition, even with our traditionally winnable games being at the end of the season. I remember when in 1977 Johnny Majors came to resurrect the fortunes of the Big Orange after the slow decline under Bill Battle. Things got worse before they got better. Things got really good after a while, but 4-7 in 1977 was a tough pill to swallow. The day Johnny arrived back in his homeland, he made the famous statement “I’m a hard worker, not a miracle worker.” He was right. He knew the drawer was pretty empty. And a 2-6 mark in a couple of weeks will feel like mid-October 1977.
And Georgia sees it the same way. A loss Saturday brings the Dogs down to 3-3. Not a disaster. Except that they have a trips to Gainesville and Atlanta with a game versus Auburn thrown in for fun.
Knowing these teams, this game could be one of great plays or mistake-prone. But either way, both squads will be playing like there is a lot riding on it, because there is a lot riding on it. And I’m looking forward to it, as I do all Tennessee-Georgia games. It’s a great series, even when neither team is ranked in the top 25.
What They’re Saying
Chris Lowe at ESPN picks Tennessee over Georgia 21-17. God bless ’em.
And, Patrick Garbin, the author of three books on the history of Georgia football, and the writer of the blog About Them ‘Dawgs! Blawg, has an article about the Tennessee-Georgia game of 1924. On the eve of greatness for the Tennessee football program.
Who’s gonna win?
I picked Auburn to win last week, and unfortunately I looked like I knew what I was talking about (a blind pig can…). So, I thought about going with the hot hand, but I can’t bear that thought.
But, I really think Lane Kiffin will get his first SEC win on Saturday. Just a feeling.
Tennessee 30 Georgia 20
This Week’s Games Involving Upcoming 2009 Opponents
Saturday October 10
- Vanderbilt at Army (12:00pm ET)
- Kentucky at (25) South Carolina (12:30pm ET)
- (1) Alabama at (20) Mississippi (3:30pm ET)
- UTEP at Memphis (8:00pm ET)
This Week’s Games Involving Past 2009 Opponents
Saturday October 10
- (17) Auburn at Arkansas (12:00pm ET)
- (13) Oregon at UCLA (3:30 pm ET)
- Ohio at Akron (6:00pm ET)
- Florida International at Western Kentucky (7:00pm ET)
- (1) Florida at (4) LSU (8:00 pm)
Televised SEC Games
Thanks to Chris Lowe at ESPN.com, here is this week’s SEC TV schedule.
- Auburn at Arkansas, noon ET, ESPN
- Vanderbilt at Army, noon ET, CBS College Sports
- Georgia at Tennessee, 12:21 p.m. ET, SEC Network/ESPN Regional
- Kentucky at South Carolina, 12:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net
- Houston at Mississippi State, 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
- Alabama at Ole Miss, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
- Florida at LSU, 8 p.m. ET, CBS