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

DIT

October 7th, 2011
1:33 pm

OK, off the subject, but has anyone heard from Buckeye lately?

GT Joe

October 7th, 2011
1:34 pm

UNC was #25 when we played them, and 4-1 now.

UNC is better than ANY team UGA beat.

Flat Tire on I-95 in Jacksonville

October 7th, 2011
1:41 pm

GT Joe

Yea UNC sure played good and came close to beating Tech without their real coach

you know the one that was fired before the season

Thats a tremendous win to almost lose to a team who is in the same situation as Ohio St.

By the way Ohio St looks good too without their real head coach too right

Joey

October 7th, 2011
1:49 pm

Actually, techie, our D only gave up 24 vs SC, 17, if you don’t count that 4 yard drive after a long fumble runback. The rest of SC’s points came by way of pick-6s, fumble return for TD, and a fake fumble for TD.

But as obsessed as you are with UGA, you probably knew all of that . . .

GT Joe

October 7th, 2011
1:51 pm

24 points to a brain dead stephen garcia. His worst game in college. Nice D.

GT Joe

October 7th, 2011
1:51 pm

Since when is a team’s “real coach” a fired coach?

GTBob

October 7th, 2011
1:53 pm

Please bud dont come on here and talk trash about schedules

Please enlighten the class on who Tech has played

Tech hasn’t played anybody. I never said they did. I was just responding to the notion that Tennessee has played an awful schedule while UGA has played a hard schedule, which isn’t really true.

Gary

October 7th, 2011
1:53 pm

Remember a few years back when Hawaii thought they had a great quarterback in Colt Brennan until Georgia destroyed them in the Sugar Bowl 41-10? Hawaii found out there is a big difference between the teams they had been used to playing and Georgia. I think Tennessee will learn the same lesson that scoring 50 points against minor competition is not the same thing as the SEC as indicated by their 0-2 conference record.

Flat Tire on I-95 in Jacksonville

October 7th, 2011
1:56 pm

GT Joe

You like spin everything dont you

Why were both coaches fired

It wasnt performance it was breaking rules

So had they had their real coach their results would be different

You know that Clemson is ranked ahead of Tech

You want to know why

They played better teams

Thats why they are ranked ahead of Tech

TeeJayy

October 7th, 2011
1:58 pm

Georgia wins decisively and they get ranked again.

Flat Tire on I-95 in Jacksonville

October 7th, 2011
1:59 pm

GTBob

So Tennessee’s schedule so far is the same strength as UGA’s

Try telling that to any sports writer

djdawg

October 7th, 2011
2:02 pm

GT Blow

Just make sure you have my order ready with a large frosted orange, after we roll in there on the 26th and put a whoopin on yall!!!

2-10 against ranked teams

October 7th, 2011
2:03 pm

Oh my oh my…..is that what us Dawgs have been reduced to? Arguing with the nerds (Nerds!!!) about who is better?….like that’s ever been in question? Please, just ignore them, they will always be the annoying little brother seeking some attention.

Let’s just concentrate on the Vols, will ya. Unfortunately, who ever wins…..means that one mediocre SEC team beat another mediocre SEC team. That’s what Pastor Mark Richt has brought this program down to. We will never be part of relevant discussion of the National Championship so long as Pres. A-hole Adams and Richt are running the show…..

GT Joe

October 7th, 2011
2:05 pm

Wow flat tire. A real genius. He can predict how teams would play with a different coach.

so UNC would beat us with their old coach? Funny, CPJ beat UNC in 2010 and 2009 also with that old coach.

djdawg

October 7th, 2011
2:06 pm

2-10 against ranked teams

Make up your mind. Are you with us or against us????????

2-10 against ranked teams

October 7th, 2011
2:08 pm

Gary…please….stop it. Hawaii played in the WAC, the WAC for Chrissake!!! Last time I checked, Tenn plays in the SEC….and they’ve actually won a national championship within the past 15 years….Georgia???

Let’s not pretend UGA is something that they’re not. I don’t think that as a UGA fan, wishing to contend for the National Championship once in awhile is too much to ask a program paying its head coach $3 million a year….anyone think that’s unreasonable???? What do you say you Richt apologists???

Flat Tire on I-95 in Jacksonville

October 7th, 2011
2:08 pm

2-10 against ranked teams

No arguments there

Be careful though

The 10 win season / winningest coach in the 1st 11 yrs at UGA crowd will be on here to give you some kool-aid to drink

GT Joe

October 7th, 2011
2:08 pm

Flat tire: yes, clemson is ahead of us because of more quality wins. First smart thing you said all day.

JD

October 7th, 2011
2:09 pm

Nate the Great…no, recent history tells me that this is a UGA program that has consistently lost to teams it shouldn’t. Just as UT did in last 5 years under Fulmer. Does the UCF bowl game ring a bell? And recent history doesn’t tell us Notre Dame should win a NC. They haven’t been relevant for nearly 20 years. Facts are facts. If you chose to ignore them, that is your choice.

LHarding Dawg

October 7th, 2011
2:09 pm

Georgia wins, IC gets 100 yards, and Coach Richt gets his 100th. win. It’s going to be a great day to be a Georgia Bulldog.

AltamahaDawg

October 7th, 2011
2:09 pm

is there a tear in the fabric?

2-10 against ranked teams

October 7th, 2011
2:13 pm

djdawg: “2-10 against ranked teams

Make up your mind. Are you with us or against us????????”

It’s sorta like kicking your beloved son out of the house because he continues to flounder and won’t get a job…..it’s called “tough love”. I love UGA football. But it has become so painful to watch them waste so many opportunities and all that talent that comes thru that program.

ARdawg

October 7th, 2011
2:13 pm

The Vols are an up and coming and soon to be a very improved team. I believe that. Playing 17-18 underclassman for the last two years will pay big dividends for the Vols at some point. I don’t think that point is now. This is a 2 TD win for the Dawgs and not because we are would beaters but, solely for the reason that we are well ahead of the Tennessee program at this point in time. If we do not continue to improve likely the Vols will beat us between the hedges next year

AltamahaDawg

October 7th, 2011
2:15 pm

DAWGtired

October 7th, 2011
2:16 pm

Georgia has better special teams (return, punter, place kicker 2 if walsh has unfuqd his mental implosion), Georgia has a better o-line in runblocking (meaning we need to set up pass plays by moving the pocket, bootlegs for Murray, and copious amounts of play-action), and Georgia has a first-class running back. At ALL level of defense (line, linebacker, secondary) we are more athletic, productive, and experienced and we have the better DC. Add in the fact that Georgia has shown in it’s SEC games this season that we are also a much more physical football team, and this looks good for Athens.

Tennessee has better receivers (rogers, arnett), a better pass-blocking o-line, a better quarterback, homefield advantage in a hostile stadium and a more aggressive HC.

These signs point to some sloppy/overreaching mistakes on offense for Tenn, who will fail to run the ball and heap the responsibility on a QB who hasn’t proven himself in big games (just like Murray). Unlike Murray, Bray does not have a high potentency defense and a true blue-chip running back to bail him out. Georgia will also establish better field position.

Close first half, and the first complete game UGA has played since CC equals: UGA 31 Tennessee 20

AltamahaDawg

October 7th, 2011
2:16 pm

AltamahaDawg

October 7th, 2011
2:16 pm

AltamahaDawg

October 7th, 2011
2:16 pm

Joey

October 7th, 2011
2:16 pm

“Wow flat tire. A real genius. He can predict how teams would play with a different coach.”
**************************************
Wow, GT Joe,. A real genius. He predicts that UNC is “better than anybody that UGA has beat.”

AltamahaDawg

October 7th, 2011
2:16 pm

will it post?

2-10 against ranked teams

October 7th, 2011
2:18 pm

Enter your comments here

djdawg

October 7th, 2011
2:21 pm

2-10 against ranked teams

Tough love? Sounds more like the 3 yrd old that just had his sucker swiped. I mean support them or dont. I think some of us have just been spoiled by CMR sucsess early on and how excited everyone was at the turn around that he made in this program. ROLL WITH WHAT YOU GOT!!!!!!!!!!!

GTBob

October 7th, 2011
2:25 pm

So Tennessee’s schedule so far is the same strength as UGA’s

Try telling that to any sports writer

I don’t really care what any sports writer thinks. Their opinion isn’t any more valid then anyone on the board. Those same sportswriters thought Miss St was a top 20 team a couple of weeks ago. The only good team UGA or Tenn has played is Boise St. The rest are either unknowns or just bad teams. I don’t see how anybody can get a good read on either team based on their schedule so far.

GT Joe

October 7th, 2011
2:25 pm

Joey: not predicting that. It’s a fact. UNC is 4-1, they were #25 in the coaches poll when we played them. Your signature win is MSU? come on.

AltamahaDawg

October 7th, 2011
2:25 pm

FT, can I joke with a pal? Is that ok with you? Or do you need to reserve the right to determine is some rogue Richt defense might be lurking in there?

ARdawg

October 7th, 2011
2:25 pm

djdawg

Not quite a turnaround IMHO at this point. I am thankful it’s not another 1-4 start however

TallaDawg

October 7th, 2011
2:25 pm

Brooksdawg – SC only put 14 on our defense. Our offense has to not give it away.

ARdawg

October 7th, 2011
2:27 pm

GT Bob

How about applying that logic to GT. A fast climb in the polls yet, have not beaten or played no team of consequence

2-10 against ranked teams

October 7th, 2011
2:27 pm

BTW, did y’all see Saban go APE with his QB and other players when they started to get emotional and started smacktalking to their opponents??? that was classic….

That’s the difference between Saban and Richt, who sent his ENTIRE team to the endzone to celebrate after a TD…..that was the singular moment when Richt lost me as a fan

Discipline…..is a foreign word to Mark Richt

Skokie Dog

October 7th, 2011
2:27 pm

Since Coach Richt knows what the hell he’s doing, I’ll leave it to him to work on the strategy and tactics to use in Knoxville. I do suggest, however, that he puts a reminder in his notes about preparing the team for this week’s game: college football games occur during four, 15-minute quarters, and scores from all four quarters count toward the final result. Teams who take a rest during one or more quarters tend to score fewer points than their opponents. Let’s all hope that the Dogs arrive ready to play hard for all four quarters this week.

2-10 against ranked teams

October 7th, 2011
2:29 pm

djdawg….”ROLL WITH WHAT YOU GOT!!!!!!!!!!!”

love your sense of loyaly….even though it’s terribly misguided.

That sentiment will preclude any hope for a Chrystal Trophy……

GTBob

October 7th, 2011
2:30 pm

How about applying that logic to GT. A fast climb in the polls yet, have not beaten or played no team of consequence

They moved up in the polls because they didn’t lose and teams ahead of them lost. Unfortunately, that is how strength is determined in college football. I agree that its a joke. We really don’t know how good GT is yet either.

Joey

October 7th, 2011
2:30 pm

It’s not “a fact” when UNC hasn’t played ANBODY that we have. F__k the rankings. Those fools had us in the Top 25 too.

MSU gave LSU a good game. You think UNC could play LSU that close? I don’t.

djdawg

October 7th, 2011
2:30 pm

2-10 against ranked teams

Did you not see CMR yank IC to the sideline and get in his ear hole when started jawing at one of the players after his run??

afan

October 7th, 2011
2:32 pm

um i think it was the players that decided to celebrate and had nothing to do with coach richt. he didnt tell the bench to run out on the field….geez

Flat Tire on I-95 in Jacksonville

October 7th, 2011
2:35 pm

djdawg

Talking about CMR early success

Yea but then there are those who come to reality and realize that the early success was due to Donnans recruiting and Van Gorder

After that ran out reality came in. And the last 5 yrs have been mediocre

Stop drinking the kool-aid and you would see the entire picture instead of living in the first 5 yrs

2-10 against ranked teams

October 7th, 2011
2:36 pm

afan….totally false, Richt told his ENTIRE offense to go celebrate and take the unsportsman like penalty….it’s just that the rest of the team followed…..go look it up. He admitted it…..

2-10 against ranked teams

October 7th, 2011
2:37 pm

djdawg…..so it is your contention that Richt teams of the past, say 3-4 years, are well coached and disciplined….huh??

Unranked but still rank

October 7th, 2011
2:39 pm

F__k the rankings.

It’s funny how rankings ARE a big deal when UGA is ranked.

Don’t worry, you still have your Fulmer/Richt Cup, your #1 Party School, and Cornelius Washington’s 92 mph land speed record while drunk to fall back on.

AltamahaDawg

October 7th, 2011
2:39 pm

“who sent his ENTIRE team to the endzone to celebrate after a TD”

seems to be a discrepancy.