Dogs vs. Vols: Is view from Rocky Top too optimistic?

As goes A.J. Green, so goes Georgia's offense. (Associated Press)

As goes A.J. Green, so goes Georgia's offense. (Associated Press)

Two desperate college football programs meet up Between the Hedges this week, the first meeting between the teams when both have losing records since 1906, and while the Vegas oddsmakers have the Georgia Bulldogs as a nearly two-touchdown favorite, most fans on both sides are expecting something a lot closer.

For the Volunteer view of this matchup, I turned to my friend Joey Ledford, who lives here, sent his daughter to UGA and admits he roots for Georgia “ALMOST every week” but proudly proclaims, “my blood has always run Orange.” (I think an iron supplement might take care of that, Joe.)

Anyway, here’s what Joey has to say:

“I’ve been very encouraged by the play of the Vols this season despite our 2-3 record. We knew this would be a rebuilding year and we would be playing all the kids we normally redshirt due to the attrition and lack of depth created by two coaching changes in two years. We’ve played 17 true freshmen, and we often have as many as three on the offensive line. Only one O-lineman had started a game coming into this year.

“We’ve played three top 15 teams so far and we’ve been competitive against each of them. What is most encouraging is that we’ve improved every week. We led Oregon by 10 late in the second quarter. Yes, we collapsed in the second half, but we haven’t done that since. We had a chance to beat Florida until Meyer’s gutty fake punt call midway in the third quarter when the game was still tied. And as you know, we had LSU beat had we been able to adequately respond to the Tigers’ last-second substitutions. Young players make mistakes. A couple of guys who were supposed to come off for the last play stayed on the field. Too excited to leave, I guess.

“We have given up a lot of sacks with our young line, and I suppose that is what worries me the most. But again, after five games, they aren’t exactly freshmen anymore. We sustained two long drives in our last two possessions against LSU — 120 yards worth. And as you know, they have a pretty decent defense, led by our old coordinator, John Chavis.

“I think we will be able to run the ball against Georgia and I think our defense — coached by former Boise State D-coordinator Justin Wilcox — will be a tough nut for the Dawgs to crack. Our quarterback, Matt Simms, gets better every week and if we give him time to throw, he will worry you. A couple of Georgians will be carrying the ball for us. Tauren Poole, who played for Stephens County, is clearly one of the best backs in the SEC. He sat on the bench under our previous coach. I expect you guys will also see some of Rajion Neal, a freshman from Henry County, who is simply going to be great. We have a freshman wideout named Justin Hunter who is so good that so far Da’Rick Rogers is known as our second best freshman receiver.”

Joey’s prediction: Tennessee 24, Georgia 17.

While we were at it, I asked him how it felt to have a Dooley on the sideline at Tennesee. Derek Dooley, he said, “has been a great hire. He has said all the right things and he’s made all the right moves. He shows passion on the sidelines, something we haven’t seen since Johnny Majors. He’s going to be the next great SEC coach, and I’m sorry to predict that he gets his first SEC victory Saturday in his dad’s old house. Vols fans are more than a little insulted by the Vegas line. Ask Barbara. I bet she agrees with me.”

Thanks, Joey. OK, now it’s my turn.

On paper, Georgia clearly looks like the more talented team, but that’s been the case the past two weeks, so we know all too well what that’s worth. Everyone in red and black is sick to death of the Dogs losing to teams they ought to beat, and I’m sure no one feels that way more than the players and coaches.

Can they finally put all the pieces together this week? Even a blind hog eventually finds the acorn, as the saying goes.

The main reason for optimism among Georgia fans is the way the offense looked last week when Mike Bobo belatedly made A.J. Green the focus. The guy is a freak when it comes to catching the ball and he says he’s going to hydrate a little more this week, so hopefully he won’t have any more cramping. If he’s healthy, Tennessee’s secondary, which is giving up 220 yards per game through the air, is no match for him.

Plus, A.J. on the field means no safeties in the box. A lot of folks got so bent out of shape over Caleb King’s fumble that they overlooked the fact he had a terrific game against Colorado, running for 100 yards, with a lot of them after initial contact. The Vols defense has given up a lot of yards this year, an average of 375 per game. Again, the matchup looks good on paper, but the Dogs have had trouble meeting expectations.

As for the outlook for Georgia’s defense, Tennessee no doubt will come out trying to establish the run with Tauren Poole. The key there is whether their young, hobbled offensive line can dominate Georgia’s undersized defensive line. The Vols have some fine receivers but haven’t been able to do a lot with them because they’ve given up a bunch of sacks this season — about five per game. Matt Simms isn’t immobile, but he’s not really a running quarterback either, thank goodness. (We don’t handle those so well.) So maybe this will be the week Justin Houston and company finally get to feast on some QB meat.

And while Georgia’s defense has had a hard time getting off the field, the Vols’ offense has been converting only 25 percent of its third- and fourth-down conversions, though they improved to nearly 50 percent against LSU. Could this be the week Todd Grantham’s troops finally get some three-and-outs? That could be the key to the game.

If the defense can get some stops, I think Georgia’s offense will be too much for the Vols. So I’m predicting the Dogs win by something like 24-17.

But don’t press me on how confident I am about that.

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158 comments Add your comment

Joes Cox

October 8th, 2010
11:12 am

Miss me yet?

Steen

October 8th, 2010
11:13 am

Dawgs win 35-15. Murray to AJ all day

Bubba

October 8th, 2010
11:13 am

Listened to Coach Donnan yesterday on 680. He thinks the Dawgs will have a big day passing against the Vols’ defense. He said the only reason Tennessee was able to play with LSU is that LSU has no passing attack. He also said UGA is not as talented as in recent years and is struggling to learn the 3-4 defense – said Grantham’s scheme is complicated and they’ll continue to give up big plays if they don’t get to the QB. For what it’s worth.

Aladawg

October 8th, 2010
11:15 am

AllenWaters

October 8th, 2010
11:16 am

Please make us 13 point underDAWGS! Maybe we can have the ball bounce our way! UGA fan, from Savannah, in India.
Captain Allen Waters

Big Canoe

October 8th, 2010
11:18 am

McGarity makes another good call. Marketing has its place; just not in Sanford Stadium during a football game. It’s disgusting.

Barry Gibb

October 8th, 2010
11:21 am

@ Joe Cox:

No!

egeagle

October 8th, 2010
11:22 am

A first?
I’m a Georgia Southern fan first and foremost, but grew up loving Erk and the Dawgs. UGA is my 1-AA. My first college game was Ga-Fla in the early 70s Best of luck vs. that ugly orange. All orange is ugly to me, unless it’s on a Harley jacket. The board would be wise to listen to that student’s concerns about those ads at Sanford. They are annoying. I really feel for true Dawg fans because the trolls are infuriating.

looselinda

October 8th, 2010
11:24 am

Two bottome feeder teams in a pillow fight. What has the league come to?

kydawg

October 8th, 2010
11:25 am

Dogs will win…I’ll be watching the game with my dad and my son (home from school). Believe it or not, the Dawgs have NEVER lost when we’ve watched a game together in the same house. Other than that trivia…I have no other optimism except that we are due. GO DAWGS…please?

Evansdawg

October 8th, 2010
11:26 am

Yeah…more band…less crap music. But please….to the band….lay off the the annoying Carl Orff. WAYYYY overdone.

Richts Butt Cut

October 8th, 2010
11:29 am

NOBODY WANTS TO HEAR THE DAMN BAND ANYMORE! THAT DOESNT FLY IN THE NEW AGE… SANFORD STADIUM IS LIKE GOING TO A GOLF OUTING MOST SATURDAY.. WE NEED TO CRANK UP THE VOLUME AND GET SOME ENERGY IN THERE…

Bama Fan #2

October 8th, 2010
11:29 am

If the Vols win how long does it take for Richt to move back to FSU as QB coach!!! RTR

Class of '98

October 8th, 2010
11:30 am

PLEASE DON’T PLAY “ZOMBIE” LIKE EVERY OTHER STADIUM IN THE COUNTRY!!!!

That obnoxious song is the reason there is a mute button on my remote control.

Dbalcer

October 8th, 2010
11:31 am

I agree the board doesn’t help build the feeling of excitement to the game the way it has in year’s past. I loved when the band played with the In the Air Tonight but this year at the first game they cut that song off right as the drummers joined in and it has gotten worse ever since. I do love the stuff on the board right before the team goes in-Saturday in Athens but they really need to work on timing to help build up the pregame excitement.

Richts Butt Cut

October 8th, 2010
11:32 am

No more conservative crap- girls look like they’re going to Sunday School.. I say lets do it like they did at Arizona State where the girls are wearin’ barely anything, the music is LOUD, and the fans are going nuts.. This aint 1960 anymore. The band puts me and every other 20-30-40 year old tro sleep….

Richts Butt Cut

October 8th, 2010
11:35 am

Even our cheerleaders have gone conservative- whats the deal with the full shorts under their long skirts now and tummies covered up. Its 2010, lets act like it.

MURPHY

October 8th, 2010
11:36 am

The Dawgs need to enter the stadium to the remake of Bad Company sung by Five Finger Death Punch with smoke comming from the tunnel.The team walking out in all black arm in arm! If you havent heard this song-download it-Unbelievable remake!

Sammy

October 8th, 2010
11:40 am

Georgia wins this one. Murray’s gonna torch Tenn. AJ & Durham & Charles & King & Ealey all on the field at the same time? Lights out. Party’s over.

Houston should have a field day in sacks. This O-Line hasn’t seen a dude like Houston–he’s the real deal Lucille.

GTChris

October 8th, 2010
11:41 am

Band for the first three quarters, pipe sound in for fourth quarter when the band’s chops are blown.

Kenny

October 8th, 2010
11:42 am

McGarity needs to focus on stuff besides the music.

Here’s where McGarity needs to focus RIGHT NOW:
1- Turning this team’s confidence around
2- Getting out to a fast start in the 1st quarter
3- Helping this team in the 4th quarter.

Nothign else matters right now.

UGA Insider

October 8th, 2010
11:44 am

Not only is Brown out but other insiders tell me there is not way AJ can stay on the field the entire game. The hamstring will not hold up. AJ is just not football ready after 4 weeks of sitting around. UGA could be in big trouble tomorrow but I would implore all fans to try not to let your emotions out by booing players. We have a ton of recruits here tomorrow so let’s try and keep our emotions to ourselves. Or at least until we get home. Please note there is a good chance that UT will punch is in the mouth and blow us out. But again, take you medicine like a man and maybe we can get some new kids in here next season that will help turn it around.

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Ed

October 8th, 2010
11:50 am

Absolutely hate the canned music, it belongs in NFL stadiums and NBA arenas, not in a college football stadium. When I heard that Georgia players were dancing on the sidelines to canned music, I wanted to puke. When I witnessed it live, I almost did puke. Guess I’m a traditionalist, too. The only music we should hear in Sanford should be courtesy of the Redcoats and the other team’s band. I hate what college football has become, but because I became an addict in the 70s, I still need my fix.

As for this weekend’s game, I’m absolutely amazed by the point spread. The folks in Vegas obviously quit watching Tennessee after the Oregon game. And I’m not sure they’ve seen any Georgia football this year. That being said, we’ve played two games at Sanford and routed a lesser opponent and probably should have beaten Arkansas, so maybe we’ll be a decent home team this season. I like the Dawgs in a tight game, but by no more than a touchdown.

76-DAWG

October 8th, 2010
11:51 am

Our genius offensive coordinator will probably try and establish the run like he has done in every game this year. It doesn’t take a brain specialist to know that UGA’s strength this year is throwing the ball. We have some of the best receivers in the nation and we run out the clock running the ball every game. If we are not matching the other teams scores then that means we are losing. So why are we running the ball . The only reason King got 100 yards last week was because Murray threw a lot more which opened up the run.
Bobo’s problem this year is he is trying to open up the passing game by establishing the run and he should be opening up the run game by establishing the passing game.
Throw the ball at least 50 times.

Coachdawg 2000

October 8th, 2010
11:51 am

I’m very concerned that our defense is less resistant than tissue paper against the run. I’m afraid the Tennyshoes runs it down our throat and AJ and the boys end watching (just like the chicken game). I we can stop the run I think we can lay a beatdown on them. But I’m not confident at all. Hopefully going full pads will inspire some better tackling and more physicality. GATA!!!!!!

music city dawg

October 8th, 2010
11:55 am

I lost interest in the band when they dropped “Dixie” from their name. That being said, turn the scoreboard down and let the game atmosphere prevail.

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dream on

October 8th, 2010
12:02 pm

we haven’t responded to any “must win” games yet this year. why should that change tomorrow?

it aint gonna. we are watching the end of the richt era play out before our eyes.

10-11 vs SEC east in the last 4 years……this is not “a bad season.”

jimbob

October 8th, 2010
12:04 pm

Ed, you are old. I am suprised you know how to use a computer. If you want to listen to lame band music, watch re-runs of lawrence welk, otherwise, if you want to go to a college football game, be prepared to hear some loud music (rap, rock, etc.) because that is what gets the fans and the team pumped up and ready to kick some a$$!!

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[...] p.m. UGA fans are talking about this item from AJC’s Junkyward Dawg: A student representative at this week’s meeting of the UGA athletics board raised the issue of [...]

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suwanee dawg

October 8th, 2010
12:09 pm

I sure hope I am wrong, but think TN OL will be much more physcial than our DL. Too bad I cannot say the same about our OL. We need to take a hard look at linemen we recruit and the subsequent strength and conditioning. Speed does not help you when you are knocked on your a$$. Again, sure hope I am wrong.

Coachdawg 2000

October 8th, 2010
12:09 pm

76-
Throwing the ball 50 times makes me very nervous. I do agree that maybe toss it around A LITTLE MORE. Mainly screens (bubble-wr and if you insist on playing Carlton Thomas at TB then throw him some screens out on the edge (sort of how we used to utilize Tyson Browning). I love to watch AJ run posts but the they are probably run bracket double coverage on him, so use him to run off the safeties and then hit them with screens underneath. But I’m sure the offensive staff has a good plan. As far as the music, if we ever do the cheesy crap the chickens do i will vomit!

OSCAR

October 8th, 2010
12:10 pm

I want to hear the band play DIXIE!! So do all other fans….that would liven up Sanford!!!

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NC Dawg

October 8th, 2010
12:13 pm

Obviously, when the music is blaring, the players stop focusing on football and begin their latest dance. No music. Band and football at the games! These players need to play the game at hand and stop worrying if someone sees their new dance move.

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Coachdawg 2000

October 8th, 2010
12:19 pm

I have been accused of drinking the koolaid on CMR. I will say this, if we lose Saturday then I don’t think we’ll beat anybody other than Idaho State. 2-10 is so bad even I think Mark Richt gets walking papers. There is never a situation where UGA should be 2-10 but that is what we are looking at if we lose tomorrow!

South Ga Dawg

October 8th, 2010
12:24 pm

Let the big Dawg Eat boyzzzz!!!!

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W. Roberson

October 8th, 2010
12:32 pm

Georgia will beat the Vols. The dawgs want that meat from the QB. Dawgs will win easy by 21 to 28 points.

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That Band Kid

October 8th, 2010
12:33 pm

All of you hatin’ on the band can go flip your bar stool over, pick a pole and rotate.

We’re one of the top bands in the SEC if not all of NCAA. We’re loud, we play traditional AND popular music. The student section actually listens to us and they enjoy the show.

We’re the first ones in the stands to cheer and the last ones to leave. We always play Battle Hymn at the end for the fans no matter what. We’re the ones who cheer consistently unlike our fair weather fan base.

You want tracks blasted through speakers, fine. But understand you are severely underrating one of the best bands in collegiate sports.

Go Dawgs. Beat Vols!

Kenny

October 8th, 2010
12:36 pm

Dogs started out favored by 10.

It’s grown to 13 with news Kris Durham will play.

Top Recruit

October 8th, 2010
12:38 pm

The passion for the game is at the same temperature for Richt and Cox lately.

Did Bobby Cox go to San Fran to eat, relax, and watch the game from the dugout. Could not see that Posey was out by two feet. Hell that is not even close. And the Braves, they went back to sleep. Who will put a boot up somebody’s butt on these two teams. Does being motivated to win mean anything!

It was good to see the starting players from this great state of Georgia in that game. Is the UGA baseball coaches seeing the talent in this state in baseball now!