Georgia (3-2, 2-1 SEC) vs. Tennessee (2-3, 0-2 SEC)
Where: Knoxville, TN
When: 12:21 p.m. SEC Network
Last meeting: Georgia 26, Tennessee 14, Oct.11, 2008
Georgia: Georgia mustered just one first down in the first half against LSU last week, and the Bulldogs’ anemic rushing attack ranks dead last in the SEC. While freshman tailback Washaun Ealey had an intriguing debut last week, Georgia will be without veteran Caleb King. A.J. Green remains the Bulldogs’ best weapon, as he leads the SEC in receptions and yards.
Tennessee: The Volunteers have had moderate success running the ball behind a talented offensive line, but quarterback Johnathan Crompton has struggled mightily. Even with defenses loading the box to stop the run, Crompton has had trouble throwing the football, and the Vols rank 82nd nationally in passing offense.
Georgia: After a rocky start to the season, Georgia’s defense has looked sharp the past two games. Arizona State’s only two touchdowns followed Georgia turnovers and LSU mustered just six points before a late rally in the fourth quarter. Still, it’s those late TD drives by the Tigers that raise questions about just how far the Bulldogs’ D has come.
Tennessee: The Vols have been buoyed by a strong defense this season, led by All-American safety Eric Berry and veteran defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Tennessee also features a veteran group of linebackers and an impressive freshman safety in Janzen Jackson.
Georgia: The Bulldogs’ special teams are a mess. Kicker Blair Walsh missed his first field goal of the season last week, but it was his kickoff with 1:09 to play that was the real story. LSU returned the ball to the Georgia 38, eventually winning the game. Meanwhile the Bulldogs didn’t record a yard of punt returns in the game despite LSU’s ongoing problems in that department.
Tennessee: Return men Nu’Keese Richardson and David Oku are both very athletic and quick and capable of turning any kick into a big play. Kicker Daniel Lincoln is a veteran, but missed a field goal last week against Auburn.
Georgia: The last time Mark Richt took his troops to Knoxville, the Bulldogs were thumped by the Volunteers in what Richt called the most listless performance of his career. Coming off an emotional loss to LSU last week, he’ll need to do a good job of motivation along with some smart strategizing to avoid another letdown.
Tennessee: Lane Kiffin spent his first offseaon in Knoxville tweaking other SEC coaches. The results so far haven’t been pretty. The Vols are still winless in the SEC, and while Kiffin’s squad has been bolstered by Berry’s big performances, the first-year coach has a long way to go to prove he belongs among the elite names in the conference.
Offense: Joe Cox vs. Eric Berry
Berry had 14 tackles a week ago against Auburn and he has 13 interceptions in his career. He’s a threat to steal an interception and he’s dominant against the run. Cox needs to keep a constant eye on the All-American safety, avoid turnovers and keep Georgia’s young offense aware of where Berry is at all times.
Defense: Georgia’s defensive line vs. Montario Hardesty
Last week, Auburn loaded the box to stop the run, and Hardesty still tallied 90 yards and a touchdown. He’s the SEC leader in rushing, averaging 115 yards per game. Georgia’s defensive line has been stout the past two games, however, racking up 18 tackles for a loss.
Prediction: Georgia 24, Tennessee 21