The Georgia Bulldogs are set to continue their strong performance in the 2013 season on Saturday, as the team travels north to Knoxville, Tennessee to face off with the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium.
Set to kickoff at 3:30 p.m. as part of CBS’s Game of the Week, the 3-1 Bulldogs are coming off a dramatic 44-41 victory over the LSU Tigers and will be taking on a Vols’ squad that has been hurting so far in 2013, shown by their close 31-24 victory over the South Alabama Jaguars last week to move to their record to 3-2.
While on paper it appears as if the Bulldogs should win this one easily, one should note that no matter who has wandered their sidelines, Tennessee has had a tendency to play Georgia tight more often than not (Tennessee holds a 20-19-2 all-time record against Georgia). With that being said, the Bulldogs will have to play very lax on Saturday for the Pride of the Southland to be blaring “Rocky Top” when the clock hits all zeroes, particularly on defense.
To put it simply, Tennessee’s offense this season has been horrendous, particularly the passing offense, which sits at 112th in the nation with 154 yards per game. Getting consistent quarterback play has been a constant struggle for Tennessee in 2013, as new head coach Butch Jones has given junior Justin Worley along with redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman plenty of opportunities to win the job with very limited success.
It appears as if Worley (725 passing yards with 8 TDs & 6 INTs) will be the signal-caller for the Volunteers, which calls for the Bulldogs to focus on frustrating Tennessee’s running game. Despite the troubles through the air for Tennessee, the Vols have actually had a fairly competent ground game, led by the duo of senior Rajion Neal and junior Marlin Lane. Averaging close to 215 yards a game so far this season, the Volunteers are sure to work on establishing the run to open up the passing game for Worley, which looks like the only way Tennessee can keep this one close. If Georgia is able to leave the Vols’ backs banged and bruised through four quarters, we can expect to see what would essentially be a knockout at Neyland.
Offensively, the goal for Aaron Murray and the rest of the Georgia offense should be simple: do not turn the ball over. The Volunteers’ defense has been quite opportunistic so far this season, sitting third in the entire nation with fifteen turnovers caused in five contests.
Tennessee’s lack of an offense has been substituted by the great play of the defense, which helped them tremendously in their last two victories over Western Kentucky (seven forced turnovers with five in a six-play span) and South Alabama (three turnovers including an interception late to seal the “W”). Murray and running back Keith Marshall (starter Todd Gurley still looks questionable) need to focus a great deal on simply taking the yards they are given and not putting the ball in hazardous spots; do this and the Dawgs will extend their winning streak to four games.
Game Prediction: The Tennessee defense does a great job of slowing the Bulldogs down to start the game, but the Vols’ offense becomes their undoing on Saturday, as Worley throws three costly first half interceptions to make the quarterback situation at UT just a tad bit murkier. Tennessee does what it can to keep it close, but the Dawgs are just too determined in this matchup. The result is another Georgia win, their fourth straight over Tennessee (longest streak over the Vols since 2003. Final Score Georgia Bulldogs 38, Tennessee Volunteers 17