For the first five games of the 2015 season, the Tennessee Volunteers lacked an offensive identity. The Vols went from a fast-paced, no-huddle offense to a ball-control, run-heavy offense between games and sometimes even in the middle of games. The attempt to mix offensive identities left Tennessee without a clear idea of who they were on offense, and it showed, especially late in games.
Tennessee's offense twice looked anemic in the second half in big games against Oklahoma and Arkansas. Even against Florida the offense got stuck in a rut and became predictable in the worst moments. The Vols proved they had the players to run the ball effectively against any team they played, but the passing game was struggling to develop any sort of rhythm to start the season. Through the first five games, quarterback Joshua Dobbs had completed just 57.5 percent of his passes for a mere 157.8 yards a game. Wide receivers were averaging just 10 receptions a game on an average of 16.2 completions a game from Tennessee's quarterbacks.
But on Saturday against Georgia, the Vols appeared to finally find the right blend of offensive schemes. The offense looked more in sync than at any other point this season, racking up 312 passing yards and 207 rushing yards. Dobbs completed 25 of his 42 passes, and 12 of those completions were to receivers. The running game was aided by Dobbs' 18 carries for 118 yards, and Jalen Hurd had his usual gritty performance on the ground.
One of the biggest issues in the previous five games was coaches either trying to make Dobbs stay in the pocket and take away his ability to run or letting him run wild but not throw downfield. The coaching staff seemed intent on making Dobbs one-dimensional one way or another, but the game against Georgia was the first time since 2014 that Dobbs truly looked comfortable enough in the offense to use all his talents to the fullest. Dobbs and the offense ran the zone read effectively and used more power schemes in the running game, and the mid-range and downfield passing games were finally used as more than just a gimmick.
Tennessee will be facing the No. 1 overall defense in the SEC when they take on Alabama after this week's bye week. If the Vols are to have any chance at pulling off the upset, they will need to keep up the momentum they picked up on offense in the win against Georgia. If Tennessee shows any signs of being conservative, one-dimensional, or afraid to take shots downfield in the passing game against the Crimson Tide, then they have no hope of winning. It will take the type of offensive effort the team displayed against the Bulldogs for the Vols to earn the upset.
The schedule gets significantly easier for the Vols after their game against Alabama when it comes to opposing defenses. Aside from Missouri, the second-best defense in the conference, the Vols have games against Kentucky (10th), South Carolina (14th), and Vanderbilt (5th) remaining in conference play, interrupted by a game against a winless North Texas squad as well. So even if the Vols are stymied by Alabama, they should have plenty of chances to get back on track.
Tennessee's offensive performance against the Bulldogs has, so far, been a one-time thing this season. The coaching staff looked as though they learned from early mistakes and corrected them against Georgia, but they have to prove that the offense that torched the Bulldogs is the offense that's here to stay. If so, then the Vols may have finally discovered their true offensive identity.