With the Dogs traveling to Knoxville this week, I decided to check in with my old friend Joey Ledford, who’s been living in the Peach State for many years but still owes his primary allegiance to the land where folks dressed all in orange aren’t necessarily wearing leg-irons.
Here’s Joey’s Volunteer take on this year’s Georgia-Tennessee game:
The Vols have made a lot of progress since last year. We have a lot more depth, and we have a surprising amount of talent considering how young we are. Get this as a football stat — next year, when you guys had really better look out for us, we will have 19 returning starters.
All that said, we suffered a major setback on our fourth offensive play two weeks ago against Florida. Imagine losing A.J. Green for the season in your first series against a conference foe. That’s the equivalent of what happened to us when Justin Hunter tore his ACL. This guy was going to be all-world and will be again when he’s back next year.
I know you guys love Aaron Murray, and he is a good quarterback with great mobility, but I wouldn’t trade Tyler Bray for him even if you threw in a D-lineman or two. Bray is on his way to being the best Tennessee quarterback since a guy named Manning. He has already broken a couple of Peyton’s passing records and many more will fall in the future.
Will Tennessee win? Last year when Junkyard bravely turned over this space, I boldly predicted a Vol victory only to see us come out brain dead one week after the Baton Rouge disaster. You might remember that one — we lost our major upset bid on the last play of the game because we had 13 guys on the field. This year, coming off a warmup over Buffalo, I see a close game that will probably be decided by special teams and that worries me because, believe it or not, yours have been better than ours.
But I think our O-line will handle your pass rush. You will stop our running game because so far we haven’t had one. Frankly, when your quarterback passes for more than 300 yards every game, your running game isn’t hugely important.
Our defense is a lot better than you guys think it is and it is good enough to shut you down when it has to. Florida got several short fields and had very little to show for it. I honestly believe we would have beaten them had Hunter not gotten hurt. To quote Mr. Munson, that was like a hobnail boot to our faces.
OK, here goes: Tennessee 35, UGA 34. Good luck, have fun in Knoxville and let’s hope nobody important to our teams gets hurt. It is still early and there is a lot of football to be played.
Thanks, Joey, for bringing up the hobnail boot play. That’s a nice reminder of the early days of the Mark Richt regime, when the Dawgs owned Neyland Stadium. P44 Haynes. Sean Jones. Ah yes, those were the days.
The last couple of trips to Knoxville have been pretty horrific for Georgia, however, so now would be a great time to flip that dynamic again.
I’ll admit this game is looking tougher for Georgia now than it did back at the beginning of the season, largely thanks to young UT quarterback Tyler Bray, who’s leading the conference in passing yards per game, touchdown passes and passing efficiency.
Of course, most of that has been against suspect competition, but the same knock can be used against Georgia, so I won’t go there.
The loss of ace receiver Justin Hunter isn’t to be underestimated, however, as I think Georgia is likely to devote a bit more attention to the Vols’ remaining receiving threat, Da’Rick Rogers, than Buffalo did last week, when Rogers had seven catches for 180 yards.
That’s pretty much the Tennessee offense right there, as the running game with Tauren Poole has been pretty dreadful, ranking last in the SEC.
Still, with Tennessee tied for the national lead in third-down conversions and the Dogs ranked second nationally in defending third down, something’s got to give.
Defensively, the Volunteers have been good but not great and have proved vulnerable to big plays. So far UT has given up a touchdown of at least 65 yards or longer in all four games.
Speaking of which, this might be the week Isaiah Crowell finally breaks a long one. And if Georgia’s offensive line can a) stay onsides despite the deafening Neyland Stadium noise and b) keep Aaron Murray from getting batted around and adding to the 13 times he’s already been sacked, Orson Charles and Malcolm Mitchell could have big days, too.
I think the keys to this game for Georgia come down to two things (besides, of course, not turning the ball over): Can Todd Grantham’s defense continue to get QB pressure in the absence of the suspended Cornelius Washington? And can Mike Bobo’s offense manage to put two consecutive halves of decent production together?
Basically, my optimism about this game comes down to this: Bray is good, but he’s not Kellen Moore, and Georgia’s defense with Bacarri Rambo (who didn’t play against Moore) is a lot better than it was in the first game. Plus, you’ve got to figure Georgia’s offense is overdue for a big second half.
If Jarvis Jones and Chase Vasser (or Ray Drew or whoever) can keep up the pressure on Bray and Murray can keep from serving up a pick 6 or two, I think Georgia notches another SEC win against Tennessee. But I think this will be the Dogs’ biggest challenge since the opening two games.
What about you? Feel free to share your thoughts on how the Dogs will do against the Vols.
Got a question for the Junkyard Blawg? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find me on Facebook.
Follow me on Twitter.