Georgia Bulldogs Head To Knoxville Looking For Redemption

Kimberley NashSenior Writer IOctober 8, 2009

ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 26: Head Coach Mark Richt of the Georgia Bulldogs watches the action against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sanford Stadium on September 26, 2009 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Another week. Another game. Another round of questions to be answered about how good the Georgia Bulldogs can be versus how good they will be this far into the season.

Last week, the Dawgs suffered a gut-wrenching, possibly, season-changing loss to LSU. The loss set loose a flurry of questions that led to many a fan taking to radio, blog, and water cooler to say: "These Dawgs are NO good".

Well, sitting nicely at 3-1 in the SEC and still in it to win it, so long as they can keep their helmets fastened tightly, this Georgia fan says that come Saturday, Georgia will play its most important game of the season.

That's right...the MOST important!


Because the Georgia Bulldogs of 2009 have already been written off by many a fan, prognosticator, analyst, and casual viewer. They aren't in the top 25 and most are beginning to feel they'll be lucky to make a bowl game of any consequence, much less a major one.

Add to that, the firestorm that has yet again brought into question the validity of having coach Mark Richt remain the leader of this club—his seemingly blind loyalty to both his defensive and offensive coordinators is enough to make some want to set their "G" hat on fire.

However, even with all the vitriol and doubt going around about this team, there is a low-lying confidence that comes through when they are no longer in the headlines—they play their best with their backs against the wall and confidence waning.

So, as they head out to Tennessee to play in the big orange house, there is plenty of reason to be both concerned and content.

Reason to be concerned:

Tennessee has the fourth ranked rushing defense in the conference, allowing just under 114 yards rushing per game.

Georgia has had trouble running the football and is currently dead last in the SEC for rushing.

After last week's loss, it became very clear that the Dawgs will need to establish the run with a lot more authority if they expect to have continued success in the passing game.

Reason to be content:

Tennessee's run defense is less impressive in the SEC than it is against non-conference foes—success against Western Kentucky and Ohio helped to inflate their dominance just a bit, as neither of those teams were able to do a thing against the Vols.

However, the story is different against SEC competition so far this season, as the Vols have given up 208 and 224 yards respectively to both Florida and Auburn.

Reason to be concerned:

Eric Berry is a flat-out beast and will make his presence felt all over the field because coach Monte Kiffin most likely continue to use him in a hybrid role (playing linebacker/defensive back).

Berry hasn't been lights out much this season, but he has shown up in the big games—against Florida this year he recorded 11 tackles and an interception.

He has a knack for being in the right place at the right time, and if Joe Cox doesn't get any better at disguising his intentions on the field, Berry will easily eat him up all day and may even come up with a pick six.

Reason to be content:

Berry has been largely absent from the stat sheet this season; having recorded only one interception so far—by contrast, he had three by this time last season.

Much of that is due to teams choosing not to execute many plays in his direction.

That said, however, Brent Vinson is becoming just as relevant as Berry is, and Joe Cox needs to be careful not to get so caught up looking for Berry that he misses the other guys on the field who can do serious damage.

Reason to be concerned:

Montario Hardesty and Bryce Brown offer a dangerous one-two punch for the Vols.

The Dawgs have played a lot of close, emotionally draining football games this season and may be vulnerable to some big runs due to defense fatigue. Both Hardesty (5.5 ypc) and Brown (5.0 ypc) are capable of making huge ground gains and eating clock.

If Georgia allows Tennessee to control the time of possession, they play into their hands and will have no shot at establishing any offensive rhythm. It is of the greatest importance that the Dawgs stop the run, and stop it often. If they can do that, the Vols will have to beat them through the air where Jonathan Crompton has been a model of inconsistency thus far.

Reason to be content:

Tennessee is not in the minority in choosing to run the ball on first down, the fact is, they have been pretty successful in getting significant yardage on first-down attempts (averaging 5.00 ypc).

However, that said, if Georgia can force Tennessee into 3rd-and-long, they can keep them from monopolizing the ball for too long because the Vols are not nearly as effective in converting on third downs (they've converted 25 of their 68 attempts).

It goes without saying that the Dawgs will need to protect the ball, limit mistakes on special teams, and play disciplined football on Saturday.

The Vols are not looking to leave Neyland 0-4 in the SEC on Saturday, and the Dawgs can expect them to be playing some very inspired football.

Georgia will need to come ready to play early and, hopefully, they can escape Knoxville with not only a win but with a little more hope that all is not lost.