1. Does the emergence of Todd Gurley put any preseason fears (or, let's be honest, opponent hopes) about the Georgia running game to bed?
Sure. While he's had some minor ball security issues, Gurley has given Georgia the downhill threat it's been missing since 2008, when Knowshon Moreno soulja boy'd off to the NFL. But perhaps more exciting is that Gurley is one of four tailbacks who have seen significant action in Georgia backfield. Ken Malcome and Richard Samuel are both bruising veterans, and Keith Marshall is a homerun threat. For a team that kicked its leading returning rusher off the team during the preseason 3 times in the past 2 years (Caleb King, Washaun Ealey, and Isaiah Crowell), that depth is very exciting.
2: With the return of Bacarri Rambo and Alec Ogletree to the lineup, does this put Georgia's defense on the same path they were on in 2011, or will the D still be in "okay, well, we're here, now what" mode that they've appeared to be in for stretches this season (second half against Missouri excepted, of course)?
Those guys make a huge difference. We've actually been starting a redshirt freshman former walkon in Rambo's spot. And Ogletree would have been the guy charged with shadowing James Franklin. He's also probably the most physical guy on a defensive unit that includes Jarvis Jones, which is saying something. Perhaps more important, those guys are our most vocal leaders on defense.
3: Marlon Brown, Tavarres King, and Michael Bennett: plus WRs or guys who happen to be on the opposite end of Aaron Murray passes?
Former Tennessee Mr. Football (see what I did there?) Brown will likely play on Sunday. The guy is just a big matchup problem. It's certainly taken him a long time to get there, but he's finally playing up to his physical talent. His fellow senior Tavarres King is a threat in the open field and a speedy downfield threat. Bennett may actually be Chris Doering, except he won't try to sell you an adjustable rate mortgage. He just doesn't drop balls. All of which is to say, Aaron Murray's progressed this year, but those 3 guys have a lot to do with his progress.
4: Who's giving Tennessee's staff nightmares (you know, if they're sleeping, which they're not because they definitely put in 176 hours a week between games)?
That would be Jarvis Jones, who plays Todd Grantham's unique linebacker/basilisk hybrid. But be aware of Abry, the other Jones. He's the Bulldogs' underrated senior defensive end, and he's shown himself to be a solid pass rusher. Teams have really struggled at times this season with containing he and Jarvis at the same time.
5: How do you see Saturday going, anyway?
This sets up as a major letdown game for Georgia. You can only run on all cylinders for so long, and the Bulldog offense was definitely burning nitrous against FAU and Vandy. I'm also worried silly about the Vol passing game, which is going to hit some big plays. Nevertheless, I like the Bulldog D to force some mistakes, which along with special teams play could make the difference. My guess, which could easily be transposed, is UGA 31, UT 27.
BONUS: name three things Mark Richt has not lost control of.
1) Katharyn Richt (still watergirlin' after all these years),
2) his tan (a healthy glow, rather than that burnt orange shade that buys dermatologists a second Ferrari)
3) the ping pong table (dude is cut throat, often challenges recruits to a game and really doesn't like to lose, allegedly).