View from Rocky Top not what it once was

After an emotional win, can Mark Richt's Bulldogs avoid a letdown? (Jason Getz / AJC)

After an emotional win, can Mark Richt's Bulldogs avoid a letdown? (Jason Getz / AJC)

The Georgia-Tennessee series may no longer generate quite the excitement of a few years back — UGA says it returned unsold about a thousand of its 8,500 ticket allotment for Saturday’s game against the Vols — but noisy Neyland Stadium is still an intimidating place to play.

And with UGA fans concerned about a possible letdown after the Bulldogs’ big, emotional win over LSU — and history having shown us that even extremely talented Georgia teams can come a cropper when visiting Knoxville— this is not a week for complacency in the Bulldog Nation.

How do they feel about it up on Rocky Top? For that, as usual, I decided to go to my old Volunteer pal Joey Ledford, who always provides us a reasonable, good-humored Big Orange viewpoint. Take it away, Joe …

Hi Dawg fans.

Bill has kindly asked me to do this for several seasons now, and this is the toughest year so far to write about our game. To be totally honest, this is the first time I’ve ever felt we have little or no chance to beat you so I’m not going to come on your board and talk trash I don’t believe.

I felt pretty good going into last year’s game, and had we showed up with even a shred of defense (thanks, Sal Sunseri!), we would have gotten you guys. As you may recall, we hung 44 on you, but gave up — ouch! — 51. So instead of writing fiction, I’m going to give y’all a little history lesson about where we are as a program and how it relates to you guys.

When Vince Dooley retired, Georgia football went into a bit of a dark age. Few Dawg fans were happy with Ray Goff or Jim Donnan, although both posted winning records. Georgia did not really become a perennial power again until Coach Richt got the job.

UT fans hope their latest new coach, Butch Jones, can get the program back on track. (Associated Press)

UT fans hope their latest new coach, Butch Jones, can get the program back on track. (Associated Press)

We are in a similar dark age, which began with the firing of our Hall of Fame, National Championship-winning coach, Phillip Fulmer in 2008. Our hires since his firing were far worse than yours. Lane Kiffin coached just one year before leaving us in the middle of the night for his dream job at USC. You saw this week how that dream turned out. Then we got Derek Dooley, now hated by most Tennessee fans, but who I honestly feel will be a great coach someday. Sadly, he wasn’t up to the task of rebuilding Tennessee.

I believe Butch Jones will be our Mark Richt, a worthy successor to Coach Fulmer. The only difference is that our roster isn’t as strong now as Richt’s was in 2001. But our recruiting is looking great and we will be back among the living in a year or two. We currently rank No. 4 nationally in the 247 rankings for both 2014 and 2015. This year, however, it is a matter of surviving in the SEC until the reinforcements come in.

We lost our entire passing game, the guys who scored those 44 points against you, to the NFL. Our strengths are on both lines, with at least four pending NFL draftees on the offensive front. Our overall defense is much better than last year, with a knack for takeaways, but I can’t see our offense scoring enough to keep us in the game with you guys unless you turn it over early and often.

Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley has struggled this season. (Associated Press)

Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley has struggled this season. (Associated Press)

That said, my best hope as a Tennessee fan is that you guys come in flat and sloppy after your emotional LSU win. As oldtime fans know, Neyland is a tough place to play when 102,000 get into it, and I’m hoping the early events keep our crowd loud. We are debuting some snazzy alternative uniforms — Tennessee will be wearing a color we call Smokey Gray. It should really fire up the team and the crowd, and my hope is that emotion will carry us a long way.

By the way, I went to Sanford the last two times we played there, and I can’t say enough nice things about the way I was treated and the Sanford experience (except for one old guy who kept glaring at me last year … LOL!). I hope your experience in Knoxville is similarly enjoyable — win or lose.

I will loudly dispute those who say, “Tennessee isn’t a rival anymore.” We still lead the overall series 21-19-2, and I don’t expect you guys to go ahead on that particular scoreboard.

Prediction: Georgia 38, Tennessee 24.

Thanks, Joey. I think that sounds like a pretty fair assessment of the game and the relative status of the two programs as of now.

Aaron Murray and the Georgia offense are going up against one of the SEC's lesser defenses in Tennessee. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Aaron Murray and the Georgia offense are going up against one of the SEC's lesser defenses in Tennessee. (Jason Getz / AJC)

As Richt acknowledged earlier this week, “going to Knoxville is never easy. Coaching in this league for 13 years now, I’ve been there a few times and have probably run every gamut of emotion from elation to getting your tail kicked. We know it’s going to be a great atmosphere and there will be over 100,000 people screaming for the Vols. We know we have our work cut out not only to handle the noise and handle the communication aspect of it and the emotional aspect of it, but also we are playing a good football team.”

Good, but not great. Based on just the talent level of the two teams, Georgia should be able to handle Tennessee Saturday, even with Todd Gurley on the sideline.

I’m more concerned about the possibility that free safety Tray Matthews will be out, but even that isn’t likely to make up for the Vols’ deficiencies on offense. Despite a big OL and a decent running back in senior Rajion Neal, Tennessee doesn’t have near the firepower of last year and just barely made it out of last week’s game with a win over South Alabama.

Tennessee will try to control the ball as much as possible by pounding away with its running game, but that’s an area where Georgia’s defense has shown its greatest improvement so far this season. Also, UT quarterback Justin Worley, who was benched briefly earlier this season, ranks last in the conference in pass efficiency and has thrown a lot of interceptions lately, and the Volunteer passing game ranks 112th in the country, so it should be safe for Georgia to load the box, even with its shaky secondary.

On the other side of the ball, Tennessee ranks 11th in the SEC in run defense, allowing 163.2 yards per game, and ninth in pass defense at 249.8. Plus, there’s the Willie Martinez factor (the unlamented former Georgia defensive coordinator now is the Vols’ secondary coach). So Aaron Murray and the Dogs’ high-powered offense should be able to do their thing and win comfortably, barring any mental meltdowns and turnovers.

That’s how Joey and I see this week’s game. Feel free to share your own thoughts on the Dogs and Vols.

Go Dogs!

Got something you want to discuss concerning the Dawgs? Or a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? Email me at  junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

92 comments Add your comment

iagosyoda

October 3rd, 2013
9:36 am

Textbook trap game.

Rocker

October 3rd, 2013
9:58 am

Nice comments by Mr. Ledford. Dawgs win big.

SimpleDawg

October 3rd, 2013
10:08 am

Close early, runaway late….. Dawgs cover the spread in a late blowout.

ARdawg

October 3rd, 2013
10:08 am

I am where Ledford is except on the score.

Unfortunately for the Vols, the Dawgs need to paste Tennessee early and often. The Vol program seldom reaches these depths but, Oregon is hanging their hat on that SEC win over the Vols and any comparison will be made (in the voters mind) to that game.

We need a 50-60 point win and a strong defensive showing to keep the Dawgs entrenched in the polls

NCDawg

October 3rd, 2013
10:11 am

I’d be more worried if not for 2 things. Their defense and their passing attack. Our offense is handful for good defenses and UT isn’t a good defense. Our weakness is the young secondary and UT does not have the horses to exploit that.

If we get 2 TOs we win. Period. No matter what else happens. If our offense isn’t on ludes then it will be ugly. Sit Gurley for this one. Marshall and Co. will give us enough running game to make them have to stack the box. I don’t need to to tell you what happens after that.

It’d be nice to see a return out of Reggie Davis or a Pick 6.

But I’ll just take a W.

NCDawg

October 3rd, 2013
10:17 am

Oregon doesn’t win that way if it’s in Neyland ARDawg. That game would have been more competitive. They would have won by 5 TDs. Hopefully the pollsters take not of WHERE the game is played.

Regardless we need to hold them to a couple of TDs. I think our offense can score 3 Tds on them in their PJs. LOL

NCDawg

October 3rd, 2013
10:18 am

Traveling fan.

October 3rd, 2013
10:19 am

As for the returned tickets, I know many of my friends have purchased tickets directly from UT instead of through UGA because they stick us up so high in the air. They also charge so much for face value that the stub hub and scalper prices will be lower than face with such a low demand.

ARdawg

October 3rd, 2013
10:34 am

NCDawg
Unlikely they will take much note of the location. It’s unfortunate for the Vols but, they are the ones that let Oregon use them to wipe their cleats on. It really doesn’t matter so much now but, come the end of the year if choosing the better teams by comparison and the gaps are razor thin, some will consider the compasison

ARdawg

October 3rd, 2013
10:34 am

BazookaJoe

October 3rd, 2013
10:49 am

Man, hell must be freezing over, I agree with many of the comments and Bill/Joey !
OK, unless we come out flat (which we have done before in Knoxville – for any of you going up there – go look and see how we get off the bus, that will say a lot) we should win by multiple scores. Key is to jump on them early and often to take the crowd out of the game.
We are down 2 in the overall record, I think it will take Butch a few years to get them back – we win this year, next year games in Athens we win that as well.
Now we are all tied up. If we can get up on the overall record, that would get us to the point of having a winning record against everyone we have played (at least played more than say 2-3 times I think… havde to check the media guide) except Bama and LSU.

Bulldawg35

October 3rd, 2013
11:08 am

Joey Ledford doesn’t believe what he wrote……he really does believe they will beat us. He was bragging about putting 44 on us…and the slight series lead they have. I think they will beat us because of how Murray plays on the road and the injuries we have now. Murray doesn’t play as good on the road and that’s a fact!!

Bulldawg35

October 3rd, 2013
11:11 am

No Gurley or tray….plus the o- line plays terrible on the road. We are ripe for an upset. Don’t be surprised y’all.

Bulldawg35

October 3rd, 2013
11:22 am

Vol fans are talking a lot of junk on the message boards…they really are believing….we are in trouble. Our dream season will be in shambles after sat.

UGA Insider

October 3rd, 2013
11:28 am

UGA 52
UT 10

North Texas is much better than Tenn.

Bulldawg35

October 3rd, 2013
11:30 am

Their o- line will dominate our d- line…..plus our secondary can’t stop anybody. I think we are overrated for sure.

Bulldawg35

October 3rd, 2013
11:42 am

Insider….

Nope…sorry not the way UGA plays in Knoxville! What was the score you predicted last week?

BigDawg

October 3rd, 2013
12:07 pm

This game hinges on whether the Dawgs come out inspired and ready. If they do then it will be a blow out, if they come out flat and play uninspired then it will be a ball game and will hinge on turn overs, penalties etc.

Go Dawgs

ATLdawg

October 3rd, 2013
12:22 pm

Why is there not more belief in our program after the LSU win? I think it showed something that not a lot of people have talked about, which was the incredible play of our O-Line. Murray didn’t get sacked the entire game and TG could have rushed for 200 yds had he not been injured. I agree that this game could be prime for a let down, but I think that our team now knows they can compete with anyone and win. The hangover from the SEC Championship game is over. Our team is dangerous and playing with some swagger!

AltamahaDawg

October 3rd, 2013
12:29 pm

Nice to play a team that I had to look up the name of their QB for a change.

AltamahaDawg

October 3rd, 2013
12:31 pm

Really? you are going to challenge Insider on his score prediction last week?
You predicted Georgia would lose 42-24. So, yea….

7576DAWG

October 3rd, 2013
1:00 pm

We held North Texas to 7 yards rushing and L.S.U. to 77 yards. Vols. are ranked 112TH in passing. Those two things tell me Georgia can name the score. I don’t see a let down. Georgia know’s what is at stake.

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 3rd, 2013
1:22 pm

Dawgs are about to play the worst defense they have faced YET. Tick Hounds come out in their “smokey” grey uniforms and that is appropriate as they are about to get SMOKED!

7576DAWG

October 3rd, 2013
1:23 pm

Georgia will loss Gates, Lee, Lynch McGowan and Murray to Graduation . The rest of the starters are on Defense . Everybody on the list can be replaced with just as good of a player. Lynch may be an exception . The biggest lose will Murray.
Georgia should end up 11-1 this year and as great of a team as we have this year I think next year will be much better because the Defense would have grow up.
Having said all of that, we need to get Mason or Ramsey some playing time. I hope we will not freeze the ball but exploit Tennessee’s 112TH ranked passing coverage, Get comfortably ahead and then let Mason and Ramsey play the other 3 Quarters.
Georgia is going to have a great team next year not to have a leader which could mean we are only a good team. . If Park’s can come in early he may be in the mix but for now we need to work with who we know will be there next year. Getting Mason and Ramsey some significant playing time is a must and getting ahead early against Tennessee will accomplish that.

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 3rd, 2013
1:27 pm

Dawgs are about to play the worst offense they have faced YET……. load the box – stop the run – and blitz on 3rd and long.

*** Rocky Top will be laid to rest.

Bulldawg35

October 3rd, 2013
1:30 pm

Heck we made johnthan Crompton look like Peyton manning. I think we will make this tenn qb look like manning as well.

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 3rd, 2013
1:30 pm

Most of all come out with a “W” and no major injuries for Mizzou who will be more of a challenge.

gbal

October 3rd, 2013
1:32 pm

Always a chance for a let down or upset, but does anyone want to bet on it?

Didn’t think so.

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 3rd, 2013
1:32 pm

BS35 (aka Milk Dud) – ***** WARNING WARNING WARNING * blah*blah*blah*blah -TROLL ALERT!

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 3rd, 2013
1:37 pm

The Tick Hounds will come out in their new duds in front of 100,000 screaming dreamers fired up!

Nothing like a long drive ending in a TD to quiet them down.

Bring the OL that played S.C & LSU.

The special teams that played LSU.

The DL that stopped LSU’s run defense.

*** SMOKE Smokey!!!!

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 3rd, 2013
1:39 pm

The DL that stopped LSU’s run game…. I was distracted for a second there.

Bill King

October 3rd, 2013
1:41 pm

You can say one thing for Bulldawg35: He’s consistent in his pessimism. I’m looking forward to later in the season when he explains to us why the Dogs are doomed against Appalachian State!

7576DAWG

October 3rd, 2013
1:58 pm

Mariota for Oregon threw for 456 yards against Tennessee . We don’t need to establish the run game . That will open up after Murray shreds the secondary passing the ball. At the end we will have our balanced numbers but Mason and Ramsey can hand the ball off just as good as Murray can.
If Oregon can hang 59 on Tennessee at Oregon Georgia should be able to go over 40 points at Tennessee.
We need bring Oregon and the National sports writers back down to earth and show them that Oregon’s blow out was because of Tennessee being a very bad team and not allow them to think Oregon is that much better than a good SEC team.

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 3rd, 2013
2:24 pm

7576DAWG – Oregon could have easily scored 75. They throttled down half way through the 3rd quarter.

BS35 (aka Milk Dud) – Doom & gloom – pitiful – just pitiful

Dawgs will start out with the run but it won’t be up the middle – sweeps, swing passes to the RB’s

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 3rd, 2013
2:27 pm

Phat Phil Fuelmer will give the Tick Hounds a motivational speech – seriously?

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 3rd, 2013
2:29 pm

Look forward to seeing what J.J. can do – he’s like a missile taking off – that kid is some kind of quick off the blocks!

Take no prisoners – skin the hounds!

Bulldawg35

October 3rd, 2013
2:41 pm

Yeah I want us to skin the hounds too. But that stadium and crowd noise causes us to choke every time! I’m ready for the dawgs to show why we are 6th in the nation. What’s wrong with fluker and Johnson why can’t get any playing time damn it!

Bulldawg35

October 3rd, 2013
2:42 pm

Flo- ri- duh…

You can throw out that troll alert all you want. But it’s not going to help us beat Tennessee!!

I-DOG

October 3rd, 2013
2:48 pm

Interesting article by Fox Sports (sorry don’t have the link) that Ohio State shouldn’t even be in the national title discussion even if they win out because their schedule is just so weak. While I have to admit I am biased, I have to agree with their assessment on that.

Bulldawg35

October 3rd, 2013
3:24 pm

I could care less about the braves…..baseball is such a stupid sport!

TnDawg

October 3rd, 2013
3:44 pm

Well BullDawg35 is right, we did make Compton look like a superstar. Being a Bulldawg alum and living in Tenn, that was a particulary rough year. I think the Dawgs will win but I don’t see a blowout. Just hope the Dawgs aren’t flat.

Bulldawg35

October 3rd, 2013
3:52 pm

Our. Secondary will be the get well card for Justin Worley! He will have his season high passing yards! Sorry I’ve seen this movie before!

ARdawg

October 3rd, 2013
3:57 pm

Braindead35

Take up drinking.

Berry Berry

October 3rd, 2013
4:09 pm

Vols 38, Richt’s goons 35

ARdawg

October 3rd, 2013
4:09 pm

Because that crack is just not doing much for your brain power

ARdawg

October 3rd, 2013
4:11 pm

Another Tech troll with delusions of grandeur

FGD135

October 3rd, 2013
4:18 pm

Two of the seven Fulmer Cup winners will be there in Knoxville. That’s quite a gathering of thugs!

AltamahaDawg

October 3rd, 2013
4:42 pm

It would be fun to just line up and see how many yards Murray could throw for. I’m not suggesting TN. Not suggesting that is wise. But wouldn’t you love to see us just forget the running game and air it out over and over.

dawgfan

October 3rd, 2013
4:43 pm

I don’t really know much about Tennessee. All I know is we have one of the worst defenses I have ever seen. That makes any game potentially interesting.

Hold on to your hats.

dawgfan

October 3rd, 2013
4:57 pm

He probably wouldn’t make it past the 3rd quarter because they’d just start blitzing everybody. He’d get killed.

Great plan though.