Tennessee star quarterback Tyler Bray passes against Georgia in 2011.
The Tennessee Volunteers are a talented football team. They have a quarterback in Tyler Bray that has completed over 63 percent of his passes this year, two running backs that are averaging over four yards per carry, and a multitude of receivers that can break the game open with one play.
Although the defense has given up an average of almost 400 yards per game, Tennessee has the firepower to engage in a shootout with almost any team in the country. With that, the Vols have a chance to win their upcoming road matchup with Georgia, but it's not going to be easy.
It's going to take a valiant, perhaps even a miraculous, effort from the Vols offense to keep pace with Georgia. Bulldogs linebacker Jarvis Jones is going to be all over the field. To that point, star safety Alec Ogletree and linebacker Bacarri Rambo will be returning from suspension, so the Bulldogs defense will be revamped heading into this contest. On the other side of the ball, Georgia boasts the SEC's leading rusher thus far in freshman Todd Gurley.
Needless to say, Tennessee is going to have their hands full in Athens on Saturday. Let's take a look at three things the Vols must absolutely do in order to upset the nation's fifth-ranked squad on their home turf.
Tyler Bray Must Be the Most Effective Player on the Field
Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray has the ability to put the team on his shoulders and keep the Vols in the game down to the very end. He's completed 63.5 percent of his passes so far in 2012, and leads the nation with 12 touchdown passes through four games. For Tennessee to have a chance to win this game, Tyler Bray must be lights out.
Although Bray will be arguably the most talented player on the field this weekend, he may not be the most effective. This game is going to come down to how Georgia's vaunted pass rush produces consistent pressure on Bray, and how much time the Vols offensive line allows Tennessee's big-play receivers to get open down the field.
If Bray has the time to throw, he will systematically pick apart Georgia's secondary and turn this game into a shootout. If he is under pressure and constantly getting hit, this game will turn ugly in a hurry. Tennessee's offensive line has a clear-cut, yet monstrously difficult task that will likely determine if this game is competitive.
Tennessee is talented, but there is a reason Georgia is the fifth-ranked team in the nation. The Bulldogs are averaging a staggering 47.5 points per game, and currently lead the SEC with an average of 530 yards of total offense per contest.
Despite allowing an average of 162.2 yards per game on the ground, Tennessee's defense is tied for first in the SEC with eight interceptions. Georgia is going to score points on offense this Saturday, but Tennessee must create turnovers in order to give Tyler Bray and the offense an opportunity to keep with the Bulldogs offense. If quarterback Aaron Murray makes mistakes against the Vols, he will pay dearly for them.
Georgia is undoubtedly the better team on paper heading into this game. The only way Tennessee's defense can keep the game competitive is by relentlessly capitalizing on Georgia's offensive blunders.
Stay Balanced Offensively
Who Will Win This Matchup?
Tennessee's vaunted passing attack has the ability to bring the Vols back from any reasonable deficit. However, Georgia's defense is too good to be beaten by a one-dimensional offense. For Tennessee to have a chance at staying competitive, Rajion Neal must prove effective in providing a semblance of a formidable rushing attack.
So far through 2012, Neal is averaging 4.5 yards per carry on the ground. If he can get going early in the game, the offense will open up for the Vols as the contest progresses into the latter stages.
Last season, Tennessee got caught playing catchup to Georgia in the fourth quarter. The offense became extremely pass-heavy, and the Vols were unable to generate consistent production. If the same happens this time around, Tennessee will be in for a long day.