The earlier posts in this series have been titled "3 reasons the Vols should beat the __________ in 2015." Today, though, we're talking about the Georgia Bulldogs, and so we're substituting the word "should" with "could." The Vols are picking up some momentum with the pollsters as more and more of them begin to voice opinions that Tennessee will win the East. We'll know later this week when SEC Media Days concludes whether that momentum has propelled UT over Georgia, but I'm thinking at this point that Georgia still has to be the favorite.
But even if we get the nod over Georgia in preseason predictions for the SEC East, that could very well have more to do with the rest of the schedule (Georgia draws Alabama in addition to Auburn this year) than with head-to-head concerns between the Vols and the Bulldogs.
But there are reasons to believe that Tennessee could beat the Red and Black this year, and here are three of them:
1. One more small step for mankind. Will has done much of this work already, but allow me to issue yet another reminder: The Vols, despite being at a significant talent disadvantage, have been close to beating Georgia the past three years in a row, and this year, the talent gap is even smaller. The bad guys won 35-32 last year, 34-31 in overtime the year before that, and 51-44 in 2013. Whether it's Georgia being Georgia, the Bulldogs not taking the Vols seriously, Mike Bobo, or the coaching staff forgetting that they have NFL running backs, Tennessee has been right there with Georgia even when seriously out-manned. This year, that may still be the case, but I think we can safely drop the seriously now. Are the Vols one step closer to getting it done? If so, that one small step can be the giant leap that swaps an L for a W.
2. Turnovers are fickle. Not only have the Vols been close to beating the Bulldogs straight up the last three years, they've also saddled themselves with additional disadvantages in the form of late-game turnovers. Shooting ourselves in the foot against rivals has become an art form around here lately, but turnovers are part correctable and part fickle. Expect Jones and the more experienced and talented players to improve that which they can control, and then let's hope the Bulldogs woo the heck out of the turnover temptress. She'll go with them. She never really liked us anyway. And our new uniforms suck. /slams the door
3. Scheduling. The Bulldogs play Alabama at home the week before they come to Tennessee. The following week, they host Missouri, who's won the SEC East the last two years in a row. That right there is traditionally a trap/sandwich game. Maybe this would mean more if Tennessee didn't play Arkansas the week before the Georgia game or if Tennessee was a little more under the radar, but that doesn't mean it's nothing. The SEC is a grueling test of endurance, and although Arkansas packs a serious punch, I think between the two, I'd rather get hit by the Hogs if I have to keep my wits for later. We think Arkansas can make opponents woozy. We know Alabama can. Plus, the Vols have a bye after the Georgia game, so there's nothing but Georgia on our minds that week.
So what's the closing argument on this one? A little more talent and a little more ball security, and the Vols could take advantage of a maybe-woozy, maybe-double-minded Georgia team to take that next small step, a giant leap into the W column.