Saturday, October 5, 2013
Five things: Georgia-Tennessee
By David Ching
No. 6 Georgia (3-1, 2-0 SEC) will try to keep it rolling by visiting Tennessee (3-2, 0-1) in Knoxville, where Butch Jones is 3-0 so far since becoming the Volunteers' coach. Let's take a look at five keys to the 3:30 p.m. game:
Georgia running game: Georgia running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall thrashed Tennessee's defense for 294 yards and five touchdowns in last season's 51-44 Bulldogs win. But with Gurley's status uncertain – he sprained his ankle against LSU last week – Georgia might have to lean on Marshall (51 carries for 213 yards this season, including 20 for 96 yards against LSU) and freshmen J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas. Tennessee has not been particularly effective in defending the run (163.2 yards per game, 11th in the SEC), but Georgia's run game did not click at the same high level when Gurley missed time against Clemson and LSU.
Weakness vs. weakness: Which side will bend when Tennessee's lackluster passing attack squares off with Georgia's porous secondary? By far the weakest point in Georgia's defense thus far has been a freshman-heavy pass defense that is surrendering 277 yards per game (13th in the SEC, 99th nationally). But Tennessee has hardly demonstrated the capability of exploiting that weakness. After shuffling quarterbacks and settling back on Justin Worley (65-116, 725 yards, 8 TDs, 6 INTs), the Vols have hardly impressed when they put the ball in the air. They're last in the SEC in passing (154 ypg) and have the league's lowest completion percentage (54 percent).
Turnover troubles: It's no secret that turnover margin is one of the most important stats in football, so keep an eye on that figure. No SEC team has turned the ball over more than Tennessee, which has 12 giveaways (eight interceptions, four fumbles lost), including five against Florida two weeks ago. The Vols' defense has also generated more turnovers (an FBS-high 11 interceptions, four fumbles), although seven of those takeaways came in one game, against Western Kentucky. Only two SEC teams have turned the ball over fewer times than Georgia (five), but the Bulldogs have been uncharacteristically ineffective at generating takeaways. They have recovered a pair of fumbled punts, but forced only two defensive turnovers – a fumble recovery against South Carolina and an interception against North Texas.
Murray's chase:Aaron Murray's assault on the SEC record books will likely continue with one major milestone today. He needs only 99 yards to pass former UGA quarterback David Greene's mark (11,528) for most career passing yards in SEC history. Murray is closing in on Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel's SEC-record 114 touchdowns, with Murray sitting at 106 entering today's game. And Georgia's quarterback is probably only a game or two away from breaking Tim Tebow's SEC total offense record of 12,232 yards. Murray currently sits at 11,659. Among SEC teams, only Texas A&M (1,310) has allowed more passing yards than Tennessee's 1,249.
New uniforms, etc.: Tennessee will don “smokey gray” uniforms today for the first time, marking just the third time that Tennessee has worn anything other than orange at home. They last wore an alternate uniform in 2009, when they broke out black jerseys and beat No. 21 South Carolina 31-13 – which incidentally was the last time the Vols defeated a ranked team. Speaking of Tennessee's history against ranked opponents, it hasn't defeated a top-10 team since beating Georgia 51-33 in Athens in 2006. The Vols have lost their last 18 games against ranked teams.