October 9, 2009

Preview: Georgia at Tennessee

WHERE: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tenn.

WHEN: Saturday, 12:21 p.m.

RECORDS: Georgia 3-1, 2-1; Tennessee 2-3, 0-2

HEAD COACHES: Georgia - Mark Richt (85-24, 9th season), Tennessee - Lane Kiffin (2-3, first season
TV/RADIO: SEC Network (Dave Neal, Andrew Ware, Cara Capuano/Georgia Bulldog Radio Network
REPLAY: Sunday, 11 a.m. (CSS)

What's on tap<

Saturday's game marks the first time that Georgia and Tennessee play each other and neither team is ranked in the Associated Press or USA Today Coaches polls since 1937. The game is also the first of three straight for the Bulldogs who return to the Volunteer state next week to take on Vanderbilt. Georgia is off Oct. 24 before meeting top-ranked Florida in Jacksonville on Oct. 31. The Bulldogs will not return home to Sanford Stadium for 35 days until they host Tennessee Tech on Nov. 7.

What to look for

For Georgia, can the Bulldogs rediscover their running game? Good question. The Bulldogs ranked last in the SEC in rushing with just over 98 yards per game and can expect the Volunteers to stack the box. Naturally, this will put the game on the shoulders of quarterback Joe Cox who will not only look to get the football downfield to A.J. Green, who leads the SEC in receiving with 30 catches for 527 yards and five touchdowns.

Still, the Bulldogs will need to have some semblance of success on the ground and will hope that Richard Samuel and Washaun Ealey are able to provide a suitable spark.

For Tennessee, the Vols will look to play a mistake-free game, something they haven't done much of with quarterback Jonathan Crompton at the helm.

Crompton has completed 82 of 150 passes for 890 yards and nine touchdowns but has been intercepted a league-high defense.

Running back Montario Hardesty is the SEC's leading rusher with 575 yards and five touchdowns.

Injury update

The Bulldogs will be without running back Caleb King (jaw), wide receiver Tavarres King (concussion), linebacker Akeem Dent (hamstring), linebacker Marcus Dowtin (finger), defensive end Kiante Tripp (shoulder, stinger), cornerback Chad Gloer (hamstring) and safety Quintin Banks (knee).

Sacks pick up

After having just five sacks through the first four games, Georgia exploded for six against LSU, two by defensive end Justin Houston. For the first two games, Georgia's defensive ends were Roderick Battle and Damarcus Dobbs. But Battle suffered a season-ending knee injury. However, the Bulldogs got Houston back for their game against Arkansas after he missed the first two gems with a suspension and he responded with a career-high seven tackles against the Razorbacks, followed by a four-tackle, a sack and two tackles for loss against Arizona State to earn himself SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week.

Berry gets it done for Vols

Junior safety Eric Berry entered the 2009 season in search of the UT school record for career interceptions and the NCAA record for career interception return yardage, but a change in coordinators has forced Berry into a new role playing closer to the line of scrimmage.

While Berry is still the NCAA active career leader in interceptions with 13, he is also first on the team and third in the SEC in tackles with 45, an average of nine per game. He is also second on the team in tackles for loss with 4.5 for eight yards. In his first two seasons on Rocky Top, Berry averaged six stops per game and 5.25 tackles for loss per season.

He tied his career high with 14 tackles versus Auburn, and has posted three double-digit tackle games this season and seven in his career.

Vol freshman continues to impress

Complimenting senior tailback Hardesty in the Tennessee backfield is true freshman Bryce Brown, who signed with Tennessee as one of the top recruits in the entire country last year.

This year, Brown has 46 carries for 229 yards and one touchdown, good for an average of five yards per carry. He also has eight catches for 105 yards and a score.

In the Ohio game, Brown led the Vols in receiving yards for the second-straight game and produced 116 yards of total offense (56 rushing, 60 receiving). Through five games, Brown is averaging 6.63 yards per offensive touch.

Prediction

Wow, where do I begin with this one?

Five games into the season you'd think I'd have an idea for the pulse of this team, but with some many inconsistencies, that has proven to be an impossible task.

On one hand, I like Georgia's chances. Crompton has been a turnover machine with a league-worst eight interceptions. But then I look at Tennessee's senior-laden offensive line, the fact that Hardesty leads the league in rushing and visions. Can anybody else see the Vols chewing up chunks of yards going straight at the Georgia's defensive line? I can.

But that's the most troubling thing.

The fact that the Bulldogs' rushing attack has been virtually non-existent doesn't seem to bode well for Georgia, especially when you consider that the defensive coordinator on the other side of the field is Monty Kiffin, whose defense did a wonderful job on Florida.
Good thing the Bulldogs have Green on their side.

I've run out of adjectives trying to describe this sensational young player, and you can bet that despite whatever wrinkles the elder Kiffin comes up with, he'll still be able to make some plays.

But back to my prediction. Despite Tennessee's recent troubles, Neyland Stadium is going to be rocking as it always is and how well the Bulldogs are able to deal with that aspect could actually go a long way to determining the game's outcome.

This one's going to be close.

Actually, I see both defenses being the story in this one and a turnover, or perhaps a huge punt return (are you listening Prince Miller?), would certainly bode well for the Bulldogs' chances.

Folks, wish I could be more confident, I really do, as this one could truly go either way. But on a hunch (although can't say I'm 100 percent confident) we'll say the Dawgs find a way. Prediction: Georgia 14, Tennessee 13.


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