For a few weeks earlier this season, it was easy to confuse the Georgia Bulldogs with the Alabama Crimson Tide. After all, Alabama had lost to Ole Miss at home, and Georgia seemed to have answered its quarterback question in resounding fashion. Like they even needed a passing game with Nick Chubb in the backfield.
And then an angry Alabama team stormed into town and cleared up any confusion. It's funny, I suspect that most of us Vols fans would trade spots with Georgia right now. I mean, there's a big difference between losing two or three games you had in your hands in a year you thought you might become good again and learning yet again that you might be merely good again in a year that you thought you would make that leap to great. But Georgia fans seem to be as heartachey as we are.
So what are we going to do about it? And what are they going to do about it? And how does all this effort shake out on the stat sheet and the scoreboard this Saturday in Neyland Stadium?
Here are my three keys to this weekend's game:
Run the Dang Ball. Last week, we wanted to see if we had a passing game, and playing against a team with a suspect passing defense was a good way to find out. Well, we found out we're a running team, so let's run the dang ball. Driving this point home, Georgia's good at defense, both against the run and against the pass, but between the two, they might be more vulnerable against the run. So let's take that 225 rushing yards per game average and milk that sucker for all it's worth. Oh, and let's plan on the Bulldogs changing their scheme to stymie our run plays in pretty much exactly the same way a couple of other opponents have already done this year, and let's have a plan to adjust ready to go. That plan might begin and end with getting Josh Dobbs out of the pocket and into the designed run/rollout passing game.
Stop Them from Running the Dang Ball. Advanced stats don't necessarily agree here, but if you just look at the NCAA's generic passing offense stat, Georgia's not really much better than the Vols are at passing the ball, which is good news. On our podcast Tuesday night, Jeremy from Dawg Sports not only confirmed the predominating thought about Greyson Lambert -- that he's good against bad and bad against good -- he said that it pre-dated his arrival in Athens, meaning that it's not necessarily the small sample size we thought it was. Unfortunately, we don't really know whether Tennessee's defense is good or bad right now. Regardless, there's at least a degree of uncertainty at the quarterback position, and there is absolutely none in the running game, so the Vols should focus more effort on limiting Nick Chubb and putting the game on Lambert's shoulders. Then let's just see what happens.
Be Who We Are, Do What We Do. What we don't want to do is all of a sudden turn into a well-oiled balanced offensive machine and a stifling defense against both the run and the pass only to screw up the things we've been doing well all season and throw it all away. The Vols need to continue to make the most of kick returns and punt returns. They need to protect the football by eliminating (or at least minimizing) fumbles and interceptions. And they need to continue to punt well and win the field position battle. We actually have the advantage in these areas, and we can't afford to give that away.
If I'm being honest here, I don't really see how Vegas has set the line for this game, as I feel that Georgia is just a better team, and a better team by a fairly significant margin. And that's not the pain of the last few weeks talking, because I'm still fairly optimistic about the team still reaching most its goals for this season. I'm just not that optimistic about this game. And still, it's been close the last several years. The Vols have been close the last several games. And we're due. Man, are we due.
So I'm going to be there in person desperately cheering for Good Things.
But my prediction is Georgia 31, Tennessee 23.
Here's the comparison chart. You may find some solace in knowing that Tennessee's numbers have been compiled against the 16th-most difficult schedule and Georgia's have been compiled against the 76th-most difficult schedule. There is also some solace to be found in the advanced stats, which you can find here (Tennessee's | Georgia's). SPOILER: Advanced stats say that Tennessee actually has a 56% chance of winning, and by a projected margin of 2.7. Of course, they thought we were going to win by 4.7 last week against Arkansas, so take that for what it's worth.
|Comps||Result against Comps||Guess|
|Closest Lower||Closest Higher||Closest Lower||Closest Higher|
|Tennessee rushing offense vs. Georgia rushing defense||19||225||31||123.6||OK||AR/FL||OK||AR/FL||180|
|Tennessee passing offense vs. Georgia passing defense||95||192.8||25||170.8||OK/FL||None||OK/FL||None||130|
|Tennessee rushing defense vs. Georgia rushing offense||78||171.6||15||244.8||AR||None||AR||None||270|
|Tennessee passing defense vs. Georgia passing offense||88||242.4||84||208||None||FL||None||FL||220|
|Tennessee scoring offense vs. Georgia scoring defense||30||37||28||18.4||OK/AR||FL||OK/AR||FL||23|
|Tennessee scoring defense vs. Georgia scoring offense||71||24.6||24||38.4||BG/FL||Oklahoma||BG/FL||OK||31|