Georgia-Tennessee: Something’s got to give on third down

Can Tyler Bray pick apart Georgia's defense like Kellen Moore did? (Associated Press)

Can Tyler Bray pick apart Georgia's defense like Kellen Moore did? (Associated Press)

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.

Saturday may see Isaiah Crowell finally break a long touchdown run. (Associated Press)

Saturday may see Isaiah Crowell finally break a long touchdown run. (Associated Press)

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.

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330 comments Add your comment

Send'em U hauls

October 7th, 2011
12:14 pm

What Gives is this coaching staff. Better win or Richt is toast…..

ARdawg

October 7th, 2011
12:21 pm

Bill

I feel your pal Joey is in for a jolt of reality. It didn’t appear Hunter was going to make much splash in the Florida game and even if he had, the Vol D had nothing for Rainey and Demps. The Vol D just kept coming back with nothing. The TN O couldn’t make pooh stink and if the entire offense was dependent on one receiver, is it really much of an offense? Ask your buddy Ledbetter to let Da’Rick know, Georgia isn’t Buffalo.

I see a 2 TD win for the Dawgs

chris

October 7th, 2011
12:21 pm

This team could run the table and people would still be hollering for Richt and Bobo to be fired. Outside the Boise Game the D has been great, yes Murry has struggled but the coaching can’t be too bad when you have a True Freshmen at RB that has won SEC Freshmen of the week consecutively. A True Freshmen that has stepped up and made an impact at Wide Receiver and given us another threat. Georgia has a chance to win the East….Its time to stop finding every reason to beat this team up and get behind them and actually root for their success.

ARdawg

October 7th, 2011
12:22 pm

It would be nice however to make a couple of those TD’s in the 2nd half (IF YOU ARE LISTENING RICHT)

Ponte

October 7th, 2011
12:22 pm

Я глупый тролль ботаник. У меня нет жизни, но у меня есть надувной подругой. Тренер PJ имеет красивые сиськи человека.

AltamahaDawg

October 7th, 2011
12:25 pm

Why would they save those TDs for later?

KaNoot

October 7th, 2011
12:28 pm

Bobo usually spends the first have searching for that special play. The one that doesn’t work. Then, in the second half, he runs it over, and over, and over.

JDawg1785

October 7th, 2011
12:28 pm

Totally agreed, chris. But guys like us are usually dismissed as “Kool-Aid drinkers” and “Pollyannas” for having faith in the Dawgs.

meh

October 7th, 2011
12:36 pm

I think this will be a close game. I think UGA’s defense will be a liitle better and with UT down a receiver I don’t think their offense will be able to keep up with UGA. In the end it’ll be UGA 35 UT 27.

UGADawg83

October 7th, 2011
12:37 pm

Bill,
Back to your old ways I am so glad to hear the expert analysis from your buddy who lives in Georgia but is a Tennessee fan. Why do we care what he thinks? I’m getting my oil changed in a little while before heading up to Knoxville and I’ll be back with the spot on analysis from the guy in the pit a the oil change place.

AltamahaDawg

October 7th, 2011
12:38 pm

Clearly only a Richt Apologist would believe he couldn’t have called up the commissioner from the sideline and had that rule changed retroactively. Imagine how much better Crowell’s attitude, and ribs, would have been if he had.

Flat Tire on I-95 in Jacksonville

October 7th, 2011
12:43 pm

Nothing gives about this game

There is no excuse in UGA losing this one

But if they do I wont be shocked or surprised

Tom

October 7th, 2011
12:44 pm

24 points is about all we can muster up lately. I hate to say it, but I think we go down 28-24

Tom

October 7th, 2011
12:45 pm

Tennessee will win it in the 2nd half. B/c we can’t score points! Its real simple guys, if the other team scores more points than us they win.

JD

October 7th, 2011
12:45 pm

Not sure why UGA fans are so confident. Not only does UT hold substantial overall series lead, even in their down decade, they have still beaten UGA badly on multiple occasions. Plus, UT killed Cinci and UGA killed Miss St so really a draw there. Neither UGA or UT are in the same class as LSU or Bama but winner of this game is at least in contention to win SEC-East.

Hairy Dawg

October 7th, 2011
12:48 pm

There’s no reason we can’t win this game, but given the way we’ve been playing over the last few years, the odds are good that we’ll find one.

Joey

October 7th, 2011
12:49 pm

JD, so the fact that UT beat UGA “badly” 2 and 4 years ago has more to do with this game tomorrow than, say the fact that UGA beat UT “badly” a year ago?

gman

October 7th, 2011
12:51 pm

This game won’t be close at all! UGA by 14!

CovingtonDawg

October 7th, 2011
12:51 pm

To UGA INSIDER,
The call could not be reviewed upstairs in the same way that the call @ the Bama/FL game later that night could not be reviewed (the brantley got the balled knocked out and clearly did not recover)…there was a whistle that stopped the play. ON the run by IC, there was whistle because the ref thought he’d stepped out. IF the ref had NOT blown the whistle and allowed the play to continue, then and only then could Miss st and or the ref’s decided to review to make sure he hadn’t stepped out. Because CMR and everyone else on the field and in the booth knows how the rules work, this was not a reviewable play. Why do you think Saban wasn’t mad the other night on the same type of play? He knows the RUlES. Don’t get on CMR for your lack of knowing the rules.

ARdawg

October 7th, 2011
12:54 pm

Эй, тролль, Пол J имеет некоторые прекрасные manboobs. Я с нетерпением жду того дня, когда GT принимает manboobs как талисман. Довольно установки

DIT

October 7th, 2011
12:54 pm

“the only question is will UGA show up and actually play.”

That was the best quote of the day on this blog. Sad, but we never know which UGA team is going to show up. There actually was a time, not too long ago, that I had confidence in the team going into every game.
Hard to say that now. STicking my neck out there, but Dawgs win 24-21. Three point are the only points we score in the second half.
One of UT’s TD’s will be a pick 6 because Murray is not himself if he does not throw one.
One question: When will Mason play more!!

ARdawg

October 7th, 2011
12:55 pm

Saving the TDs Altamaha? Was that for me? I wasn’t saying save them, I was saying make some. The halftime locker room pep talk doesn’t seem to be working

JD

October 7th, 2011
12:56 pm

Joey…what I’m saying is in the SEC, trends exist. UF has UT and UGA’s number. And UT has had the better of UGA, even on several occasions when they had inferior talent. It is just surprising to me how many UGA fans are so confident. Not sure what they are basing it on. On paper, UGA should win but if I was betting, I would bet on UT with history as my guide and the season’s results to date.

Anon

October 7th, 2011
12:56 pm

I see someone is posting as me. Fortunately, I agree with their assessment and hope they don’t post troll comments under my handle. Would hate to have to change it.

just a fan

October 7th, 2011
12:58 pm

@JD

I think the Dawgs win because the level of competition we have played has been better so far this year the D is running on all cylinders, I believe we play a complete game this week and when by 2 scores.

Gordon

October 7th, 2011
1:00 pm

UGA wins, unless they make huge offensive mistakes like against USC. When one team can run and the other one can’t, something unusual has to happen for the running team to lose.

Nick

October 7th, 2011
1:00 pm

I don’t get the “in-awe” talk of Bray. Frankly I haven’t seen much from himthat impresses me at all. Plus he looks like he’s 8 years old.

Flat Tire on I-95 in Jacksonville

October 7th, 2011
1:01 pm

DIT

When Dooley and Erk were here you could count on a UGA team showing up even if we won or not you knew you had to come to play

Now teams dont have to come to play they just need to wait and watch us either implode or just stick with one play and run it down our throats

Richt`s Hammer

October 7th, 2011
1:03 pm

Ever since choakdawg ate Russ during a sugar high generated by eating 500 krispy kreme`s we have been cursed.

Tenn 55 Dawgs 0

Think I will go to Honduras.

DIT

October 7th, 2011
1:04 pm

Right on Flat Tire!

UGA'05

October 7th, 2011
1:09 pm

We would be in the same position if we played the teams tennessee have played. We have had been in the tough games. What has Tennessee had? We could put up 300 + passing yards if we played Cinci, Pitt, and Buffalo. I didn’t even know buffalo had a team. Stop talking Vols. We’ll see after the game. 38-0 UGA. You gotta be able to run in this league. And the Vols can’t.

Flat Tire on I-95 in Jacksonville

October 7th, 2011
1:09 pm

ARdawg

You’ll have to ignore Altamaha Dawg our favorite Richt appologists he is very good at twisting what you say because he thinks it makes you look stupid

I understood your second half comment. I would add that the coaches better learn to put a team away i.e going for it on 4th and inches inside your 20 with an 18 point lead

Maybe they saw the Detroit Dallas game and took notes (doubt it though)

Hot Dawg

October 7th, 2011
1:12 pm

LSU and Alabama are the most hyped college teams in the history of ESPN and all the nerds on CSS jump in as well. LSU only beat MIss State 19-6. Like it or not DAWGS open up a can on TN and Barbara Dooley will just have to sit there and take it and thats just the way it is. 31-17 with Murray aka Tony Romo of college football throwing three picks. No picks 44-10.

Joey

October 7th, 2011
1:12 pm

JD, I will agree that some UGA fans on here are confident – every week (see week of game 1). I’m still waiting on a win over a good team. Last week was pretty good – we handled MSU every bit as easily as LSU did.

I read this quote by Blair Walsh, talking about his FG misses this year: “The good thing about these kicks now is that none of them have really cost us the game,” he said”

Dang, you think he didn’t know the final score in the SC game?

ARdawg

October 7th, 2011
1:13 pm

JD

We would be basing that on a number of things. The least being what has occurred in Knox’nam for the last two trips there. We’re better, we have more talent, and playmakers. There is no reason we shouldn’t win is there?

GT Joe

October 7th, 2011
1:14 pm

Tennessee 48-4. Two safeties for the Georgia D.

Since when is the Georgia defense any good? BSU and SC AVERAGED 40 on ya’ll. What, ya’ll looked good against coastal carolina and the missy sisters?

JD

October 7th, 2011
1:14 pm

Just a fan…UGA beat Miss St., who had to go to OT to beat La Tech. UT beat Cinci badly and they crushed NC State so not sure who has the more impressive win, UGA or UT. Unfortunately for UGA, I think the similarities between Richt and Fulmer are scary. Both won early, recruited great, but during last few years of their tenure, always lost to SEC big boys. Both were also knows as “players’ coaches” which translates into losing the team off the field. Another similarity is they both have coached with a “not to lose” philosophy too often. This means they let inferior opponents stay in games and let equal or better opponents intimidate them. Don’t shoot me for offering an opinion as an independent observer but tell me which of the above points is false.

GTBob

October 7th, 2011
1:15 pm

We would be in the same position if we played the teams tennessee have played. We have had been in the tough games.

Your three wins came against the two worst teams in the SEC and an FCS team. The only real difference in your schedules was the Boise St game and we know how that went.

Nate the Great

October 7th, 2011
1:19 pm

@JD: What does history tell you about Notre Dame? History would tell you to bet on them winning a NC, but recent history would tell you to bet on them finishing with a .500 record. Recent history for UT would tell you that they were/are in a mess with the NCAA and got demolished last year by UGA. It also says that Bray looks like a world-beater against suspenct competition, but rather pedestrian against legit SEC defenses.
Also, who normally wins: Defense or Offense? Defense wins championships!!!

ARdawg

October 7th, 2011
1:19 pm

GTBob

For someone who “usually” talks good football, you are beginning to come off as trollish as your other GT breathern

just a fan

October 7th, 2011
1:22 pm

@JD

Wasn’t trying to shoot the messenger I just believe that even though we lost to Boise and SC that we grew from those games and the competition was better than what UT has faced. Plus our D has forced more turnovers than UT has they only have 1 INT on the year and look at the competition they have faced.

YANKEEDAWG

October 7th, 2011
1:22 pm

Love my Dawgs like Tenn. hate Florida! Mark gets his 100th win on the road!

just a fan

October 7th, 2011
1:24 pm

@GT Joe

Are you going to tells us AGAIN today how many MNC you are going to win or how many starters you have returning next year our that you are world beaters in the A She She

Flat Tire on I-95 in Jacksonville

October 7th, 2011
1:25 pm

GTBob

Please bud dont come on here and talk trash about schedules

Please enlighten the class on who Tech has played

UNC wow you do know they have no coach
NC St LOL they are banged up and what really ever has that program ever done
Maryland their team is fighting amongst each other but Maryland what ever has that program done
Western Carolina, you do know Georgia Southern beat them by 30
Middle Tenn High, now that is a tough one I think they have been to how many major bowl games?

DIT

October 7th, 2011
1:25 pm

G Bob – 1st of all congrats on the good start. However, can you really sit there and talk about schedules. Your schedule is one of the weakest in the country. UGA’s is not tough by any means. What I’m saying is please stick to the fact that your 5-0. Don’t insult the rest of us with any talk about anyone else having a soft schedule.
See ya on the 26th!

DIT

October 7th, 2011
1:26 pm

Sorry, should have been GT BOB

GT Joe

October 7th, 2011
1:26 pm

UNC has no coach? Wow, those players play great without a coach.

DIT

October 7th, 2011
1:27 pm

If you want to call UNC great…. then knock yourself out.

Big Dirty Dawg

October 7th, 2011
1:28 pm

Ditto ARdawg

tulevol

October 7th, 2011
1:29 pm

GO VOLS!! Beat the mutts!! Having BooBoo and Richt is worth a touchdown and field goal at kickoff!!

Seriously good luck Dawgs, see yall in Ktown tomorrow, should be a great game, too bad Dawgs have to lose!!