Georgia Football: Know Your Enemy, Tennessee Edition
Thus far in 2014, Tennessee has been exactly who we expect them to be: a team good enough to beat reasonably difficult non-conference opponents (Utah State and Arkansas State are slouches by no stretch of the imagination) and not yet good enough to compete with the nation’s elite (Oklahoma). The 34-10 loss in Norman was closer than the final score indicated, though, and it appears Tennessee is much closer to a best-case scenario of 8 wins than the “let’s get out the pitchforks for yet another coach” scenario of 4.
The offense hasn’t been extraordinary yet, ranking just 62nd in passing and 98th in rushing on a per-game basis. Again, the Vols haven’t had a cupcake to munch on yet, so their numbers are going to be skewed downward in pretty much any apples-to-apples comparison. QB Justin Worley has been decent, throwing for 721 yards and 6 touchdowns, but a pedestrian YPA of 6.1 tells me that their receivers aren’t yet blocking on the perimeter screens so prevalent in this offense. That number will be higher by the end of the season because of the talent in the WR corps.
I talked about Marquez North in my preview of Tennessee and added GIF evidence as to why he’d be the second-best WR in the league this year. 14 catches for 173 yards and 2 TD’s pales in comparison with Amari Cooper, but he is definitely the Alpha dog in a very balanced passing game. Four other guys have at least 8 receptions, including Georgia fan favorite Pig Howard and mega-recruit Von Pearson.
A cause for hope for the Bulldogs: a nondescript offensive line for the Vols (which probably plays a major role in Worley’s pedestrian YPA as well as a weak 4.2 YPC from their two backs, big-ass Jalen Hurd and regular-ass Marlin Lane). Hurd could cause problems with his 6’3 225-pound frame if Tennessee has early success through the air, as he’d represent a load for a 6-DB set.
On the other side of the ball, Tennessee is actually looking much-improved from a season ago. Again, despite a lack of cupcakes, they’re allowing 20 points per game, which is not half bad. Mark Richt opined that starting middle linebacker A.J. Nicholson should have gone pro after last year, and I tend to agree. #45 is a sure tackler and a playmaker in every sense of the word, as he has a pick-six and a few sacks already to his credit this year (did I say he was the best LB in the SEC? Yes I did.)
Beyond that, I cannot find a good site for Tennessee defensive stats ANYWHERE on the Googles, which is nuts. No tackles, no sacks, nothing. (Although LaDarrell McNeill and Cameron Sutton join Nicholson with one pick on the year).
I expect this to be a test for the Bulldogs. I arrive at this train of thought only after seeing undermanned Tennessee teams time and time again compete against Georgia. This iteration of the Vols is still a year or two away from contending for anything real, but is starting to put the pieces in place and WILL score a major upset sometime in 2014.
This one should take a similar arc to the Clemson game: trading a few blows early, Georgia being able to adjust and pound the Vols in the second half.
Georgia 41, Tennessee 24