Since 2011, Tennessee is 1-4 against Georgia losing those games by 5.2 points per game. However, last year in Neyland Stadium, the Volunteers win 38-31.
The Volunteers are coming off of an emotional victory that snapped an 11 game losing streak to the Florida Gators. Trailing 21-3 at the half, the Volunteers staged a fourth quarter comeback that saw them score 35 second half points en route to the 38-28 home win.
The team is averaging 186 rushing yards per game and is passing for 201 yards per game. Quarterback Josh Dobbs final can add a “big game”win to his resume and looked poised in the pocket as he attacked the Gators secondary last weekend. Dobbs connected on several big plays to running back Jalen Hurd, wide receivers Josh Malone and Jauan Jennings on touchdown passes. On the season, Dobbs has completed 57% of his passes for 805 yards with 10 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He has also rushed for 241 yards with 4 scores.
Running back Jalen Hurd leads the team with 365 rushing yards per game averaging 4.0 yards per carry with 2 touchdowns. He will need to have big day on the road in Athens for the Volunteers to win this game. The offense will need to be aggressive early and build on the momentum from last week’s win.
Malone and Jennings have combined for 22 receptions for 439 yards with 7 touchdowns and can have a big impact on Saturday against a “suspect” Georgia secondary that is giving up 243 yards per game.
Defensively, the Volunteers have not played a complete “defensive game” to date and will need a solid output Saturday to get the road win. The defense is allowing 141 rushing yards per game along with allowing 210 passing yards per game.
The defense has held opposing offenses to 31% third down conversions and could have the advantage over the Georgia offense if they put them in third down and long situations.
A cause of concern of the defense has to be the sack total. Entering this game, the defense has recorded only 5 sacks through the first four games and must get pressure on Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason who is only a true freshman. Eason struggled on the road last week in Oxford and has shown a tendency to throw the ball quickly when feeling a pass rush.
Tennessee is +2 in turnover margin on the year.
Georgia has struggled to find offensive consistency rushing for 196 yards per game and passing for 216 yards per game. Quarterback Jacob Eason looked like a true freshman at times last week and did not look comfortable standing in the pocket against the physical Ole Miss defensive front seven.
On the year, Eason has completed 52% of his passes for 780 yards with 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. The offensive line has allowed 12 sacks in the first four games which is a direct effect of Eason not being confident in his reads and knowing where he wants to go with the football. The other factor has been third down and long situations which has made the offense one dimensional. Georgia is converting 39% of their third down attempts and will need to do a better job in these situations on Saturday to get the win. This was the issue last year when the team converted only 31% of their third down attempts which was drastically lower than the previous three season under former offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. In 2012, the Bulldogs converted 47% of third downs, in 2013 they converted 41% and in 2014 they converted 49%.
Running back Sony Michel will look to get the start for injured Bulldog’s running back Nick Chubb. Michel has rushed for 106 yards on the ground and should be utilized in the passing game in the slot where he can mismatched on linebackers or nickel backs.
Wide receiver Isiah McKenzie has been Eason’s main weapon and leads the team with 21 receptions for 318 yards with 4 touchdowns. However, last week, McKenzie had two major drops that cost his team points and must show more focus in catching balls if Georgia is to get the home win.
Defensively, the Bulldogs are allowing 139 rushing yards per game and 243 passing yards per game. The secondary has been burned on multiple occasions this season and has not picked up where it left off under former defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Last year, Georgia had one of the best statistical passing defenses in college football allowing 156 passing yards to their opponents.
Georgia must do a a better job of rushing the passer. So far the defense has recorded 4 sacks through the first four games of the year (1 sack per game). Last year, the defense recorded only 21 sacks, which ranked 97th of 127 teams in FBS.
They must force Dobbs to stay in the pocket and not let him beat them with is legs.
Georgia is +2 in turnover margin.