Georgia looks to improve to 3-0 in SEC play on Saturday as the Tennessee Vols seek their first conference win.
Here's what you need to know:
Date: Saturday, Oct. 5
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Place: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tenn.
Radio: Georgia Bulldog Radio Network
Spread: Georgia by 10.5, via 5Dimes
The Program examines how Georgia's win over LSU impacts the rest of the SEC.
Mental Focus and Preparation
In many ways, Georgia will win this game in preparation. With all due respect to in-game alterations and game-planning, the Bulldogs' biggest hurdle will come during this week of practice.
Since the end of last season, Georgia's tough early-season schedule has been the talk of the town. Having survived that brutal stretch with a 3-1 record, Georgia must now refocus and prepare for three games against lower-tier SEC East opponents. The first such matchup is this weekend against a Tennessee team that tends to give the Dawgs trouble.
Georgia needs to come out sharp against the Vols, and the key to that will be focus on game day and diligence during the practice week.
Survive Without Gurley
Georgia running back Todd Gurley injured his ankle in last week's win over LSU. Although listed as day-to-day, a full recovery, not a premature return, is the priority for the All-SEC back.
Georgia must lean on Keith Marshall and freshmen running backs J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas to carry the load on the ground. Marshall ran with purpose against LSU, and both Green and Douglas have made big plays at big times for the Bulldogs.
Stop the Run
After allowing over 210 yards per game on the ground in their first two games, the Bulldogs have held their last two opponents (North Texas and LSU) to just 84 combined rushing yards. If Tennessee's offensive production thus far is any clue, the Vols will want to pound the Bulldogs on the ground.
This season, Tennessee has averaged 215.4 yards per game on the ground and just 154 yards per game through the air. Georgia must stop Rajion Neal and the Volunteers' ground game.
Control the Clock
This Georgia team's weakness lies on the defensive side of the ball. With that in mind, it's safe to assume there will be opportunities to score points. Tennessee needs to capitalize on such opportunities, but the Vols also need to keep Aaron Murray and the Georgia offense off of the field. Controlling the clock by utilizing the running game and short passes will pay to Tennessee's advantage.
Dominate the Line of Scrimmage
Georgia was more physical than LSU last weekend, and as a result, the Dawgs came away with a win. Tennessee's greatest strength is along the offensive line, so a solid outing by the big boys up front could take some of the wind out of the Bulldogs' sail. Tennessee has five running backs with 10 or more carries, and each of the five averages 4.8 yards per carry or more. For the Vols to win, their production will be vital.
Additionally, quarterback Justin Worley, who has only been sacked just twice all year, needs time to operate. Sufficient blocking will give his receivers time to get open against a young and yet undeveloped Georgia secondary.
Todd Gurley may or may not play this week, but even if he finds the field, expect Keith Marshall's workload to increase. After accounting for just 117 yards on 31 carries in his first three games this season, Marshall stepped up last weekend with a 20-carry, 96-yard effort.
He'll try to rival his breakout performance from last year's game against Tennessee, but accounting for 164 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 touches may be a lofty calling.
Harvey-Clemons had a monster game last week against LSU, registering 15 tackles, the bulk of which came in run support. Look for the strong safety to continue to come up as an extra tackler in the box as the Dawgs try to stop the Volunteers' ground game.
While the focus is on the running game, Justin Worley might find an opportunity to shine. Although his decision making has been questionable (five interceptions in his last two games), this Georgia defense might make things easy for him.
If his line plays well, Worley will have time to make throws. And with the bulk of his completions coming on shorter routes, a few of his receivers may be able to wiggle away from tackles for big gains.
Neal is the Vols' workhorse, and already this season he has accounted for 468 rushing yards and five touchdowns. The senior from the state of Georgia will be looking to follow up on previous success against the Bulldogs:
- As a freshman in 2010, Neal hauled in three passes for 70 yards against the Dawgs.
- Last year, he accounted for 157 yards of offense and two total touchdowns in Athens.
Mike Bobo on the Challenges of the SEC
When speaking of the pressure-packed SEC schedule, Georgia's offensive coordinator told Marc Weiszer of The Athens Banner Herald: "To be honest, SEC games are like that every week. It's going to be a ware in Knoxville. A hundred-and-something thousand fans. We've got to do a good job of enjoying this and getting back to work."
Mark Richt on Georgia's Need to Improve on Defense
Georgia's head coach told Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph, "Every game's gonna be a barnburner till we get more stout on defense and continue to get our special teams in order."
Former Tennessee Head Coach Phil Fulmer on the Challenges Tennessee Faces
Coach Fulmer told David Paschall of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, "When you go through three coaches in four or five years - Butch [Jones] has a lot of challenges." He added: "Georgia is a really, really fine football team. Hopefully we'll keep it close and in the fourth quarter make a play that wins the ballgame, but it's going to be a challenge."
In the recent past, Georgia has struggled to perform against middling teams like Tennessee. As a result, the Vols have been able to challenge superior Georgia teams and keep scores entirely too close.
This year will be different. Georgia's defense is improving, and its offense is nearly impossible to stop. Combine those two facets with a decisive advantage in depth, and the Bulldogs will come away with a win.
If Georgia enters the game with a proper mind-set and a refusal to squander the momentum generated by two wins over Top 10 opponents, the game may get out of hand early.
Georgia wins 41-20.