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Better Know an Opponent: Georgia

The Bulldogs come to town after going 2-1 against the likes of Clemson, LSU, and South Carolina. What does that mean for the likes of Tennessee?

Cameras are everywhere and can strike at any time. Look alive.
Cameras are everywhere and can strike at any time. Look alive.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

For all the talk about Georgia's weird schedule, they're one of the few teams in the country who can lay claim to having a harder schedule than Tennessee so far. That's what happens when you've already played 3 top 15 teams (and we'll just ignore that Florida's their toughest game the rest of the year because then this doesn't work, see).

  • You know Aaron Murray - 68% completions, 116 attempts, 11.5 yards per attempt (which just ...defies explanation, really), 11 TD, 3 INT. The hype surrounding Murray is pretty much entirely justified; he's the best quarterback that Tennessee will face all year (Marcus Mariota's right up there with AJ McCarron slightly below them both) and needs to be afforded that respect.
  • The absence of Malcolm Mitchell hasn't slowed the passing offense whatsoever. In some respects, it's made defending the pass more annoying, because now four guys are legitimate targets: Justin Scott-Wesley (14 rec, 20.6 ypc, 2 TD), Chris Conley (15 rec, 16.9 ypc, 2 TD), Arthur Lynch (11 rec, 15.4 ypc, 2 TD), and Michael Bennett (13 rec, 12.5 ypc, 2 TD). Lynch is a TE so in theory Georgia can put all four guys on the field at the same time. In practice, that's not too likely - Georgia likes pro sets too much to really commit to a 3-WR, 1-TE set - but ...yeah.
  • Really, you can probably figure out there are a bunch of options in the passing game; there isn't that guy who's probably in for blocking or won't get targeted. Rhett McGowan comes closest, but if you've got to go down to the #4 WR to find a guy you can probably ignore, that's a problem. Somewhat related: nickel coverage against these guys is going to be fun, and Arthur Lynch presents a massive matchup problem.
  • Oh yeah, the running game. Todd Gurley (71 car, 6.34 ypr, 4 TD) and Keith Marshall (51 car, 4.18 ypr, 1 TD) head a two-fanged beast of a rushing attack. (Also, a one-fanged beast looks like Bucky from Get Fuzzy.) Gurley's questionable; if he can't go, then ...well, then it's just Aaron Murray raining fire. I'm not sure that's much better.
  • Defensively, I don't really have much of an idea to be honest. Sure, they gave up more than 6 yards per play to Clemson, South Carolina, and LSU, but those offenses are also somewhere between good and fantastic. On the other hand, North Texas only got 3.7 yards per play. I feel pretty confident in saying that neither of those groups of teams are decent comparisons to Tennessee, so we'll just point to somewhere in the middle and call it a day.
  • Fittingly, Georgia doesn't turn it over much; they also don't pick it off that often, with their only pick coming against North Texas.
  • The Bulldogs have gotten better at getting behind the line as the season's gone on - 17 TFL in the last 2 games. By the way, in related news the Tennessee OL is one of the best in the nation at not allowing opponents behind the line - 3.4 tackles for loss per game allowed. All things mean equal, I'll take our line.
  • The defensive picture - in general - for the Bulldogs isn't great; Ramik Wilson, Amario Herriera, and Josh Harvey-Clemons pick up a lot of tackling slack, but beyond them it's all question marks.
  • Similarly, as you'd expect from a defense that's looked shoddy so far it's struggled to get off the field against good offenses.
  • Collin Barber's been a weapon the few times he's been deployed, averaging 48 yards a punt. With that being said, the kickoff game is less explosive - about 1 of 5 kicks have gone for a touchback. (Also, Adam Erickson has one kickoff on the season, which went 43 yards before going out-of-bounds, apparently. Not sure how you do that.)

At this point, Georgia's a bit unique in that there's an obvious weakness Tennessee may be able to exploit - namely, the defense. Of course, that only seems like a weakness because of the quality of offenses they've faced so far, of which Tennessee is ....not. Nobody said this was going to be easy, you know.