The No. 6 Georgia Bulldogs escaped Knoxville, Tenn. with a 34-31 overtime victory over the Tennessee Volunteers. Despite playing without their top two running backs, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, who suffered an in-game injury, Georgia received a major boost from two freshmen: J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas.
In the end, Green's emergence proved that Georgia has enough firepower to run the table.
Green stepped in for Marshall, who was starting in place of Gurley after the Heisman Trophy candidate suffered a sprained ankle. Per SportsCenter, it's unclear whether or not Gurley will be available for Georgia when it goes up against the Missouri Tigers on Oct. 12.
If Green and fellow freshman Douglas proved anything, it's that Georgia has the depth to survive that hit.
With the Gurley and Marshall injuries, UGA Freshman J.J. Green had 17 carries for 129 yards (7.6 YPC) vs. Tennessee— The SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo) October 5, 2013
There's no question that the Bulldogs want Gurley and Marshall back on the field, but with Green lining up behind Aaron Murray, there is reason to believe in Georgia's future success.
Green finished the outing with 129 yards on 17 carries, equating to an average of 7.6 yards per attempt. Douglas complemented him with 25 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, helping to create a balance that Georgia so desperately needed without the presence of Gurley and Marshall.
As the season progresses, Green's presence could be the difference as Georgia pursues a run of the table.
SportsCenter reports that Georgia head coach Mark Richt called Gurley's availability for the Bulldogs' Oct. 12 game against Missouri "50-50." According to Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal Constitution, running back Keith Marshall and wide receivers Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley were all carted off of the field against Tennessee.
Recap: #UGA has had 3 starters carted off: RB Keith Marshall, WR Michael Bennett, WR Justin Scott-Wesley. Also playing without Todd Gurley.— Jeff Schultz (@JeffSchultzAJC) October 5, 2013
Earlier in the season, leading wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell suffered a torn right ACL during the team's season opener against the Clemson Tigers. With all of this being established, Green provides much-needed depth.
The fact that he plays running back elevates that value.
Gurley is still the starter, having picked up 450 yards and four touchdowns on 71 carries—equating to 6.1 yards per attempt—through four games. Gurley also has a receiving touchdown and has thus emerged as one of the nation's premier running backs, instantly developing into a Heisman Trophy candidate.
With Gurley battling an ankle injury and Marshall hurting his knee, however, there was uncertainty in the backfield. The key word is was.
Will the Georgia Bulldogs run the table?
As great as Murray may be at quarterback, the Bulldogs are a team that relies heavily on the running game. Thus far, Georgia is averaging 42.0 rushing attempts per contest and doesn't seem to be slowing down when it comes to that style of play.
That what makes Green's eruption so promising.
With Green proving that he can run between the hashes or outside of the tackles, he can step in and provide the same punch as Marshall. Gurley is still the key to Georgia's SEC Championship dreams, but if Marshall does miss time, Green is a more-than-capable replacement.
From there, it comes down to Georgia winning the games it's supposed to win.
Georgia has just one ranked opponent remaining on the schedule: the No. 18 Florida Gators. The two will meet at a neutral location on Nov. 2, but the game will be played in Jacksonville, Fla., essentially creating a home atmosphere for the Gators.
Should Georgia survive that game, there isn't a single outing it should be expected to lose.
Road games at Auburn, Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt offer upset potential, but none of those teams are on the same level as the Bulldogs. Georgia's remaining home games include Missouri, Appalachian State and the University of Kentucky.
As long as Green keeps running the ball efficiently, Georgia has a legitimate opportunity to run the table and become a legitimate national championship contender.