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.

Got a question for the Junkyard Blawg? Send it to junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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330 comments Add your comment

Buffalo Bob

October 8th, 2011
10:49 am

Tennessee 37, Georgia 24

Rocky Top uber alles!

ecivdA egaS

October 8th, 2011
10:52 am

Thomas Brown
October 8th, 2011
9:02 am

“I guess there really hasn’t been a marquee win,” Murray admitted earlier this week.

This one, if they win it, won’t be a marquee win either. It should be. Georgia, Tennessee and Florida should be the heavyweight anchors of the SEC East – but they’re not. Not lately.

These things happen. Programs have their ups and downs and it reflects upward onto divisions and conferences when several programs are down at once. It happened to the SEC West several years ago.

Coach Dan Mullen took advantage of the East Division slump last year to make a ‘lil ‘ole Missy State team look like potential world-beaters. Auburn rode the slump to a National Championship. Either Alabama or LSU will likely do the same thing this year.

Mark Richt had his shot when the West was down. If he hangs around long enough, odds are, he’ll get another shot. Only problem is, by then, Florida and Tennessee might have both improved significantly.

ugaMUTT

October 8th, 2011
11:02 am

My only true concern with this team is its character…something neither football squad has. These teams are all gas and no patience…a common inconsistency with younger teams. They either dominate a weak opponent, or collapse when they’re losing to a stronger opponent. Can anyone name the last comeback win for either QB? It doesn’t exist. Every win that UGA has had, and every win that Tennessee has had with Murray and Bray at QB has been a lead from the start situation. Whoever has the lead at half will win this game. I wish these kids had an ounce of the character that Jake Scott, David Pollack, Bill Stanfill, David Greene, Marcus Howard, Quentin Moses, Charles Grant, and Knowshon Moreno had…those were gamebreakers.

ugaMUTT

October 8th, 2011
11:13 am

Excellent point, Sage advice…the problem in Mark Richts best years is still our biggest problem to date…Florida. Without a turn in that rivalry, we will continue to be a 2nd tier program…and even that velvet dagger distinguishment has been slipping lately. Even with GREAT squads, there has always been a sloppy loss to either SC, TENN, FL or Kentucky. Unacceptable…this program needs discipline. And I don’t mean the “You’re off the team for drinking, violating curfew type” although that’s always an issue as well. I’m talking about the military discipline that gets 85 scholarship players to move, breath, sleep, eat, talk, and think as one unit. When you look at Saban’s squads, and even Petersen’s squads, that is the biggest difference. Picture perfect execution, dedication to assignments, flawless technique built from solid fundamentals, and the decision making ability to know the right time to sell out for a big play.

ecivdA egaS

October 8th, 2011
11:21 am

@ugaMUTT

I agree. Sounds like you’ve got this thing pretty well figured out.

ugaMUTT

October 8th, 2011
11:29 am

Is anyone else tracking on this, or does everyone just come on here to talk about Red Panties, Mark Richt and Bobo’s ineptitude, our losing record against mythically ranked foes (might as well be Unicorn Rankings) and how much everything ‘Sucks’. Does anyone out there still hold a conversation on Sage’s level?
Where you at, Bill, to get in on some actual discussion? Has every blogger lost as much nerve as Pat Dye? Read this blog…its called Pat’s Picks and this guy has zero manhood between his walking sticks. The only games he calls are the obvious BLOWOUTS! Any game that is on the line, he gives a two or three sentence blurb that he pulled directly off of ESPN’s posts. Oh, except on the AU vs ARK game…he very clearly shows off his Kool-aid lense glasses with his homer account of that one.
http://auburn.scout.com/2/1114622.html
Gutless…or stupid? He picks Texas over Oklahoma as his “upset”.

ugaMUTT

October 8th, 2011
11:36 am

My upset pick is Kentucky over South Carolina…I think last week’s game against Auburn was a sign of more disasterous things to come. Especially since Melvin Ingram (their REAL gamer besides Lattimore) is out. As bad as SC and Kentucky are, as difficult as Vandy and Tennessee’s schedule are, and as dinged up as Florida is, I honestly think we still win the east even if UGA loses today. Just sayin…

2-10 against ranked teams

October 8th, 2011
12:05 pm

careful ugaMUTT…..you’re dangerously close to posting things that will get you labelled as a “traitor”, “not a true dawg fan”, “bandwagon fan”, etc from the UGA “faithful” (aka head buried in the sand fans)

ugaMUTT

October 8th, 2011
12:15 pm

Who cares? Obviously not the coaches, b/c they KNOW i’m gonna watch the damn games anyway! Don’t ask how they know, but they do. I’ll still go to homegames in athens, I will still buy UGA athletic wear, and Ill still sing Glory to Ol’ Georgia every time we win a game. However, I am not delusional enough to think that things are great until I see the type of discipline out of this team that I posted above.
The only exception I see to that rule is Auburn. Gus Malzahn has shown a tremendous amount of character (and offensive flexibility), and Chizik instills the discipline which is tantamount to comebacks and upsets. That is why the achieve more with less. I wish we had Auburn’s OC as HC at this point. He would team well with Grantham, and he doesn’t waste talent “waiting for it to develop”. Richt is every bit as conservative as his constituents, only willing to do “thiiiiiiiis” much outside of his comfort zone to protect a hollow image. He needs to be hungry again like he was when he took this job. Me and Erk coulda really lit a fire in him. lol.

ecivdA egaS

October 8th, 2011
12:20 pm

Here’s the difference between Alabama football and Georgia football:

When Alabama has been down, they have struggled. They didn’t always make the right choices and they had some wild ups and downs, but they continued to struggle to regain a standard of excellence in their football program.

When Georgia is down, they seem to have a peace about it.

2-10 against ranked teams

October 8th, 2011
12:21 pm

agreed….Malzahn would be an excellent choice for the post Richt era……sigh! We can always dream, I guess

ecivdA egaS

October 8th, 2011
12:24 pm

I’m impressed with Coach Malzahn’s coaching of the offensive. He has no experience as a Head Coach. He might make a great one… or not.

ecivdA egaS

October 8th, 2011
12:25 pm

“coaching of the offense”

ugaMUTT

October 8th, 2011
12:27 pm

I’d prefer Bud Foster or Gary Patterson first though…discipline like I said. Everyone seems to think it would be Kirby Smart, but with the program built in Alabama, I think he’s a NC away from being publicly named Saban’s HCIW. If that’s the case, I think he’d tell us to f*%$ off.

2-10 against ranked teams

October 8th, 2011
12:28 pm

Do you think Richt has much to say about coaching of the defense?….not. Malzahn would be fine, with either a Grantham or a John Chavis (LSU), although why in the world would he choose to leave Baton Rouge and their bevy of talent for Athens….

ugaMUTT

October 8th, 2011
12:39 pm

The next person gone on this staff is Garner. Great recruiter, but I think his tricks (he’s a wily cat) are wearing thin. They’re missing the Special Teams edge that Warren Belin, Jon Fabris, and (actually this only good thing I can say about the man, period) Willie Martinez had established and kept running. Notice we still had fabulous Special Teams play last year after the old regime was completely removed, but it was b/c of Belin. Once he was scooped by the Big Boyz, we were exposed.

ugaMUTT

October 8th, 2011
12:50 pm

Is anyone else’s dying wish on their bucket list to punch Steve Spurrier directly in the mouth? I’d give up my all of my virility to feel his teeth rattle and see him pee his pants a bit. I can’t stand that jerk, or his bipolar alcoholic 1/4back garcia.

ugaMUTT

October 8th, 2011
1:10 pm

THIS is why predictions are intended to be bold…no sooner was my prediction posted…now S. Car is making Kentucky look like Western should be placed in front of their title. Kentucky is so bad, they are making Shaw look legit, AND handing the ball to SCAR’s defense at an alarming rate. Neither of which is earning them brownie points with anyone but Ellis Johnson. Speaking of which…another darkhorse for UGA’s HCIW…???

Rocky Top rules

October 8th, 2011
1:36 pm

Rocky Top rules tonight. Dawgs are in for a smashing beatdown and a loooooong drive home.

I Heart Spurrier

October 8th, 2011
1:41 pm

“Is anyone else’s dying wish on their bucket list to punch Steve Spurrier directly in the mouth?”

No. If you want to beat Spurrier, beat him on the field. Oh, I forgot, UGA hasn’t had much luck at that. :-)

ugaMUTT

October 8th, 2011
1:57 pm

South Carolina’s only tradition is losing, don’t forget that “Heart”. There’s a reason all other 49 states call you the “Choking Chickens”. Or maybe that’s just the state past time?

ugaMUTT

October 8th, 2011
2:00 pm

He only had a winning record against us at Florida. Shows that he is now located in the Eastern Cesspool, since he couldn’t draw off of those accolades to do anything more than have his @ss handed to him by Newton twice in his best season at the helm of an oft disillusioned ship. You’re tier 3 SEC material. We aren’t much better, but we’ll still take the East out of your fingertips this year.

say what!

October 8th, 2011
2:20 pm

my boogers taste good and my own farts smell great……

Run Crowell, Run

October 8th, 2011
2:23 pm

Time to put pedal to the metal for a full 60 minutes….no let up this week…..GO DAWGS!

Dawg48

October 8th, 2011
3:14 pm

Like always snoop dog is on talking to himself and defending his boy friend Thomas brown

wreckmaniac

October 8th, 2011
10:26 pm

Talk about patsies. You can’t find a division in football as third rate as the SEC east. This side of the SEC continues to drop like a rock and should withdraw from the conference. Other than MAYBE South Carolina, no team from this group will end up in the top 25 and probably not the top 50. Let me know if UGA beats any team among the top 50. They haven’t yet. And you throw Vandy, Auburn and FL on top of this. How is it possible for UGA to play a pack of nobodies ?

ugaMUTT

October 8th, 2011
10:50 pm

upset that we won a game in a stadium we weren’t supposed to wreck? or are you worried that our defense is actually legit enough to expose the Georgia North Avenue Trade School again?

rednblack

October 8th, 2011
11:02 pm

wreckadooshabag
pop your zits and go to bed by yourself

Jordan

October 9th, 2011
12:31 am

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