Week 6 vs. Georgia Is a Must-Win for Butch Jones and Tennessee

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterOctober 5, 2015

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones
Tennessee head coach Butch JonesRandy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

To say things haven't gone according to plan on Rocky Top this season would be an understatement.

The 2-3 Tennessee Volunteers have been a disaster.

The Vols threw away fourth-quarter leads in losses to Oklahoma and Florida, then followed up the loss to the Gators with a 24-20 home loss to struggling Arkansas in which the Vols again held a two-touchdown lead in the game.

As ESPN's Stats & Info Twitter feed pointed out, the way in which Tennessee has lost games this year is quite unusual:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Tennessee has held at least a 13-point lead in each of its games and is 2-3. All other Power 5 teams that have led by 13+ are 157-5.

"It is definitely frustrating," safety Brian Randolph said after the loss to Arkansas, via Tennessee's official site. "I know it's frustrating for the fans, but we just have got to learn how to finish, finish out the game and keep jumping on them when they are down."

The SEC East isn't totally out of reach for Tennessee at this point, but being two games in back of Florida with the Gators owing that head-to-head tiebreaker makes this week's matchup against Georgia—fresh off its first conference loss of the season to Alabama—a must-win game.

It's an elimination game for the Vols, but the division really doesn't have much to do with it's being so critical.

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones
Tennessee head coach Butch JonesJohn Raoux/Associated Press
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For sanity purposes on Rocky Top, head coach Butch Jones desperately needs to notch his first signature win since knocking off Jadeveon Clowney and South Carolina in Neyland Stadium in October 2013.

"I love these kids, and our character's being tested," said Jones after the Arkansas loss, via the official site. "Our competitive character is being tested. Our fortitude's being tested. All you can do is keep working and work your way through it."

The Vols rank 11th in the SEC in passing offense at 192.8 yards per game—ahead of South Carolina, Auburn and LSU. Jones and his staff have been reluctant to unleash quarterback Joshua Dobbs through the air. The junior has attempted 127 passes this year—fewer than Alabama's Jake Coker and and Florida's Will Grier, both of whom have split snaps at times this year.

"A combination of bottom-line execution," Jones said via the official site. "We have to get the ball to the wideouts when they're open, and they have to get open as well and create separation. And then we got to protect."

Concerning Tennessee 2015 Statistics
StatValueSEC Ranking
Passing Offense192.8 YPG11th
Completion Percentage58.3%10th
Offensive Plays of 20+ Yards19T11th
Opponent Plays of 20+ Yards2313th
Opponent Plays of 30+ Yards14Last
Scoring Defense24.6 PPG12th
Total Defense414.0 YPGLast

The Vols currently rank last in the SEC in total defense (414 yards per game), 12th in scoring defense (24.6 points per game) and have given up the most plays from scrimmage of 30 or more yards (14).

As SEC Network's Paul Finebaum noted on SEC Nation on Saturday morning, the heat is getting cranked up a bit on Jones—who has proven to be more sizzle than steak as the head coach of the Vols.

SEC Network @SECNetwork

“Butch Jones is a great salesman, he’s yet to prove he’s a great head coach in the SEC.” - @Finebaum #SECNation http://t.co/dOAG5uc2sm

Is Jones going anywhere this year? No.

There's not a chance he'll get fired. The Vols are still building, have six 4-star commitments in the Class of 2016 and still have momentum on the recruiting trail. Success on the field matters more, but there's still some positive momentum for the program.

That might not be sustainable if the overall record this year indicates that the program is stuck in neutral.

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones
Tennessee head coach Butch JonesMike Ehrmann/Getty Images

A loss to a Georgia team that's battered and beaten after getting whipped by Alabama at home on Saturday would downshift the Vols into first gear, with neutral not far behind. Jones' crew has to travel to Alabama later this month, and while the rest of the schedule isn't exactly daunting, this isn't exactly a team that you can trust to take care of lesser opponents.

Tennessee is down, almost out and desperately in need of something good to happen against a rival on Saturday to take a little pressure off everybody associated with the program. The matchup with the Bulldogs has been a nail-biter in each of the last two seasons, despite Tennessee's playing at a massive talent disadvantage. That gap isn't as wide this year.

The Vols need a win; otherwise, this could be a lost season, and Jones' rebuilding efforts would suffer a significant slowdown.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.


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