Tennessee Football: 5 Reasons the Vols Will Beat Georgia
Tennessee's second SEC matchup comes up on Saturday. Both the Bulldogs and the Vols are looking at the possibility of stealing second place in the SEC East, and a win on Saturday would be very helpful to either one.
Both teams are talented, and right now, Georgia is favored by one measly point.
Despite the talent on Georgia's side, I think Tennessee will come away with the win. Here are five reasons why.
1. Third Down Effeciency
Tennessee has converted 62.1 percent of its third downs.
How good is that? Good enough for first in the NCAA.
Third down efficiency is usually a pretty good way to gauge how good a team is in clutch situations.
Is Tennessee the most clutch team in the NCAA? No, but they're obviously doing good things.
Da'Rick Rogers has already made some very difficult catches this season, and he gives Bray a good target who can pull through on 3rd-and-long. Mychal Rivera, despite having a few dropped passes against Buffalo, has been pretty consistent at catching short passes too.
When teams are close in talent like Tennessee and Georgia are, the team that can get it done on third down is the team that can sustain drives and put up points. That gives Tennessee an offensive edge.
For the record, Georgia's defense is pretty strong on third downs, so whichever side wins the day will likely win the game.
2. The Return of Herman Lathers
As I've said before, Tennessee's defense isn't bad, they're just young and inexperienced. This leads to giving up some big plays.
Against Buffalo, the only touchdown Buffalo scored was when Jacques Smith got fooled by a fake hand-off and the Bulls' quarterback ran 68 yards for a touchdown. That single play was more than half their rushing yards for the game.
An experienced outside linebacker would've seen where the ball was going and would have been there to clean up Smith's mess.
While the linebackers have been steadily improving game to game, they still aren't playing well enough.
Luckily, Tennessee's best linebacker may be back in time to play against Georgia.
Not convinced that Herman Lathers is that good? There's a reason his face is the one plastered up on all the billboards.
If he does return, then it will be an instant upgrade for Tennessee's front seven and ought to cut down on those big plays that Tennessee keeps giving up. He will immediately step up and lead the back half of the front seven, if not the whole defense.
Most of the points scored against Tennessee have been on big plays; Montana and Buffalo only put up points against Tennessee (before they started playing prevent defense) on freak plays that went 40-plus yards. Cincinnati's first score was a 65-yard run (one of the other two was in prevent mode with backups in).
With Lathers in, those big plays will be cut down, and that will lead to much better overall defense.
3. Tennessee's Offense Should Look Familiar to Georgia Fans
So far, Georgia's biggest loss of the year was to Boise State. Boise State's offense is built around a stud quarterback who spreads the ball around to a bunch of different targets who switch up their roles often.
With Justin Hunter out for the year, Bray has had to spread the ball around a lot more. Da'Rick Rogers gets the bulk of the catches, but a lot of balls get thrown to Mychal Rivera, Zach Rogers and DeAnthony Arnett.
Now I'm not saying that Tennessee's offense is as good as Boise State's or that Bray is as good as Kellen Moore.
However, they're in the same ballpark and play in a similar manner.
Both Bray and Moore are super-accurate quarterbacks, and both teams run a pass-heavy, pro-style offense. If that kind of attack worked on Georgia once, it could do so again.
Tennessee may not have the best running game, but now that all of Tennessee's running backs seem to be healthy again, expect to see some new looks that spread the runs amongst Tauren Poole, Marlin Lane, Rajion Neal and now Devrin Young.
That ought to be enough to at least keep Georgia's pass-defense honest.
In 2010, Tennessee's last-second loss to LSU on a stupid penalty was a heartbreaker. The next game against Georgia added insult to injury.
Georgia embarrassed Tennessee by handing them a 41-14 loss, finally snapping the Bulldogs' four-game losing streak against a downtrodden Vols squad.
Almost every starter for Tennessee played in that game last year, and they remember the sting. You're crazy if you think they don't want to give Georgia a taste of their own medicine.
This game has huge implications for both sides. Whichever team walks away a winner has a legitimate shot at chasing the SEC East crown.
(It's an outside shot, but hey, that's better than nothing, right?)
Georgia is feeling down about losing their first two games, and Mark Richt knows he's on the hot seat, but Tennessee will still want this win way more than Georgia.
5. Home-Field Advantage
Neyland Stadium is amongst the loudest stadiums in the country; with 102,455 screaming fans, it should be. Only Michigan and Penn State can claim a bigger crowd.
Home-field advantage is not huge, but in close games it can be just enough to tip the scales in the home team's favor.
Georgia and Tennessee both have talented squads, and they are very close in skill, but Aaron Murray will have to call plays while a crowd larger than all but four cities in the state of Tennessee sings "Rocky Top" at the top of their lungs over and over.
Ben Jones will have to listen to the snap count while 102,000 (mostly drunk) people scream one long tone as loud as they can just so he can't hear the snap count.
The entire Georgia team will see bright, neon orange every single place they look.
That kind of stuff is what a home-field advantage is all about.
Add to that the fact that Tennessee wins 78.9 percent of its home games, and you can see why Neyland Stadium is not the most inviting place to play in the world—unless you're the Vols.