Lord knows, I’ve tried to avoid coming to this conclusion, but I can’t deny it (and the football god of hubris will probably make me regret it).
I feel good about Georgia’s chances tomorrow. Real good. Not just to win, but to cover the spread. Comfortably.
It’s not because I think after four games Georgia has become some sort of unstoppable colossus. As confident as I feel about tomorrow’s outcome, I’m that nervous about what will happen a week from then in Columbia. But that’s because South Carolina has two things Tennessee doesn’t have - a credible running threat in Marcus Lattimore and a scary defensive front.
It seems to me that, stripping away all the statistical comparisons, assuming that Georgia won’t be in sleep mode given the profile of the game and the return of Ogletree and Rambo, and putting aside the any given Saturday threat of Georgia going minus-four in turnover margin, for Tennessee to have a legitimate chance to win this game, it has to be able to answer two questions in the affirmative:
- Can the Vols run the ball as well as the Dawgs?
- Can the Vols stop the run as well as the Dawgs?
Sorry, but I don’t see it.
On the first question, if it happens, it’ll be a first for a Derek Dooley-coached Tennessee team. If you want to argue that the Vols’ rushing stats would look better in comparison to Georgia’s because the Dawgs haven’t faced a team with a defense as good as Florida’s, I think that’s the point. Tennessee doesn’t rush well against good defenses. Shoot me, but I think Georgia qualifies as having a good defense.
On the second question, whatever misgivings I had on that were due to the Georgia offensive line. Maybe I’m reading way too much from my replay viewings of the Vandy game, but for the first time in a long while, I see a Georgia team that can run the ball credibly between the tackles. And, yeah, Tennessee has a big ‘un in the middle, but he’s playing in a defense that’s still trying to figure its way around a new scheme. Florida gashed these guys for 336 yards on the ground, and while some of that was on quarterback runs and an 80-yard scamper by Trey Burton, Gillislee managed 115 yards of his own and averaged over six yards a carry. I don’t think the Vols can hold up against the Georgia troika at running back.
I love Justin Hunter. He’s the best wide receiver in the SEC as far as I’m concerned. And I can see why Mark Richt badly wanted Patterson. Tennessee’s got a couple of other good receiving options for Tyler Bray. But that’s not going to decide the game. Instead, the team that has to bring a safety in for run support tomorrow loses. And I don’t think that’ll be Georgia. I think Grantham will be able to keep his guys back, hold UT’s passing game in front of them and wait for Jarvis and the rest of the defensive front to get to Bray. (Any time you want to go into beast mode, Cornelius, feel free to do so.)
Readers, don’t hate me because they’re pretty. I can’t help myself. And believe me, I tried.