The question that has been heard all over Knoxville this week is, “Do you think Tennessee will beat Georgia on Saturday?” Well, nobody has the answer as to whether the Vols will win, but they certainly can win.
Tennessee has the talent to beat the Bulldogs, even though Georgia is highly favored. The Volunteers need to hit that field with the confidence of a giant in a field of grapes. The Vols can show everyone that they are not afraid to play the fifth-ranked team or any other team for that matter. They have to show that they believe in themselves.
The Vols open a probable stretch of four games against ranked teams with Saturday’s clash at Georgia. The last time Tennessee played that many consecutive games against ranked teams was back in 1991, when the Vols faced five top-25 teams in a row. Head coach Derek Dooley is prepping his team for the first game in the tough stretch knowing that great opportunities are presented every time the Vols step on the field.
“Every time you have a big challenge there is always that opportunity that sits there with it,” said Dooley on the weekly SEC teleconference. “It is like every week, you have a good opportunity but it is not going to be easy.”
Taking down the fifth-ranked Bulldogs could spur the Vols as they follow Saturday’s game with an open date followed by matchups at No. 21 Mississippi State, vs. No. 1 Alabama and at No. 6 South Carolina.
“Of course it will [inspire their confidence],” said Dooley when asked what a win over Georgia would mean. “That is our next step is that we are going to have to go out there and perform and beat one of these teams if that is where we want to be. If you do it, you can’t get too excited because it takes about a week before the next one rolls in. If you don’t do it, you can’t get too down cause there is another one coming. There is a lot of opportunity.”
History doesn’t favor the Vols, who have lost to Georgia in each of the last two meetings and eight of the last 12 in the series. But, that is irrelevant according to Dooley.
For a bit of history, back in 1991, the Vols went 3-2 in five consecutive games against ranked teams taking down No. 21 UCLA (30-16), No. 23 Mississippi State (W, 26-24) and No. 13 Auburn (30-21) before losing to No. 10 Florida (18-35) and No. 14 Alabama (L, 19-24).
Heading into a game with the No. 5 team in the country, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney knows he has a tough challenge ahead of him.
The Georgia defense has limited its opponents to 135.5 rushing yards per game coupled with just 207.8 passing yards allowed.
The Vols, who are averaging 513.8 yards of total offense in 2012, second in the league to only Georgia (530.0), will try and continue to put up big numbers this weekend.
“They are heavy, number one,” said Chaney.” Those are big boys, they are hard to move around, nobody has been able to do that with a lot of success yet and it is going to be quite a challenge. They do a lot of schemes over there that makes them very complicated; it is going to be a challenge, it is going to be good.”
Chaney’s solution to the Georgia defense? Work harder.
“I guess all I ever know is to go back to work and work harder and have more practice of particular plays that you are planning on calling in the game,” said Chaney. “To me, you have to hang your hat somewhere in my position and I like to work more reps on the plays that we are going to call and hopefully we will get better at it. It is a mindset, we have to move some people out of in there and we have to feel comfortable doing so.”
Working hard to make the Vols uncomfortable will undoubtedly be Jarvis Jones, who has already tallied 24 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss of 50 yards, 4.5 sacks for a loss of 38 yards, an interception, three pass break-ups and 13 quarterback hurries in 2012. Quite simply, he has been a one-man pass rush machine.
“It is hard to figure out where he is going to be,” said Chaney on Jones. “He is willing to take a risk to make a play and all of the good ones tend to be able to do that. You know that he is going to be able to rush up field. He makes a lot of plays, he is a very good football player. In my opinion when you classify good football players the first quality that they all have is that they play hard, any position, it doesn’t matter.”
By Nancy Morris