We are well within 24 hours of kickoff, so there is no time to waste. You know about the passing, running, and kicking games, so here are the last few tidbits of this week's heaping helping of . . . Too Much Information:
Odds and Ends
- No team in the S.E.C. has been penalized fewer times (19) for fewer yards (145) than Tennessee. That should mean the Big Orange won't bail Georgia out with foolish flags . . . but I said the same thing about Ole Miss last week and the Rebels were much more accommodating than I had anticipated.
- There is no question at which offensive approach the Vols are more adept. Tennessee's 25 first downs attained on running plays are the fewest in the conference, but the 54 times U.T. has moved the chains by way of the forward pass match exactly the number of times Florida has done likewise by throwing the ball.
- U.T. has registered the S.E.C.'s second-fewest sacks (6) for the conference's fewest yards (30). On the other hand, the Vols have allowed the league's fewest sacks (2) and sack yards (15). Both quarterbacks are likely to have clean jerseys after the game.
- Don't fret if it's a tight ballgame going into the final stanza. Tennessee has been outscored 41-25 in the fourth quarter. Georgia has outscored the opposition 44-20 in the last 15 minutes.
- Here is the information for which Hamp has been waiting, but it isn't pretty. Since his first full season as his alma mater's head football coach in 1993, Phillip Fulmer has posted a 20-8 record against Southeastern Conference opponents following an in-season open date during the Volunteers' regular fall slate. Since becoming Georgia's head football coach in 2001, Mark Richt has posted a 2-7 record against Southeastern Conference opponents that are coming off of an in-season open date. To those discouraging data, however, must be appended the following caveats: six of Coach Fulmer's eight losses under these circumstances came against Florida, as did five of Coach Richt's seven setbacks in similar situations, so the Gators' dominance of both major division rivals since the early 1990s has much to do with the setbacks suffered by both coaches. Coach Fulmer has never before faced Georgia following a bye week and Coach Richt is 2-1 against S.E.C. teams coming off of an open date when the 'Dawgs play those opponents on the road. Coach Richt's only loss in an away game against a conference opponent coming off of an idle weekend came against the eventual S.E.C. champion.
The Bulldogs rank fourth in the conference and 20th in the nation in scoring defense. The 17.2 points per game permitted by the Red and Black on average are not skewed by any statistical outliers, either: Georgia has allowed 14, 16, 16, 20, and 17 points in regulation play in the Classic City Canines' first five games. The eight touchdowns scored against the 'Dawgs are the second-fewest managed against any S.E.C. team that has played more than four games.
The Volunteers rank 12th in the league and 110th in the country in this same category, surrendering a whopping 37.5 points per game. While that figure is somewhat skewed, Tennessee has allowed at least 27 points three times in its first four games. The 18 touchdowns given up by the Big Orange are the second-most T.D.s allowed by any Southeastern Conference squad.
The only S.E.C. team to have given up more touchdowns is Ole Miss. The Vols have allowed 18 T.D.s in four games, whereas the Rebels have surrendered 22 T.D.s in five games . . . and Georgia scored six of those 22 touchdowns in Mississippi's fifth outing of the autumn.
The Bottom Line
These two teams are remarkably comparable offensively. Tennessee averages 5.7 yards per offensive snap; Georgia averages 5.5. The Volunteers have ventured inside the red zone 20 times; the Bulldogs have driven inside the opposition's 20 yard line 20 times. Those treks inside the shadow of the other team's goal posts have resulted in 18 Big Orange scores (13 touchdowns, five field goals) and 19 Red and Black scores (15 touchdowns, four field goals).
Overall, the squads have scored eight field goals apiece and each has averaged four touchdowns per game: the Vols have scored 16 touchdowns in four games and the 'Dawgs have scored 20 touchdowns in five outings. Consequently, U.T. averages 34.5 points per contest and the Red and Black manage 32.6.
Defensively, though, tomorrow afternoon's combatants are as different as night and day: Georgia ranks third in the league and 23rd in the land in total defense, conceding just 303.2 yards per game. Tennessee is 95th in the nation, 11th in the S.E.C., and fourth in the state (behind No. 17 Vanderbilt, No. 82 Memphis, and No. 87 Middle Tennessee State) in that same category by virtue of the Volunteers' surrender of 439.0 yards per outing. U.T. allows 6.5 yards per snap; no other team in the conference allows more than 6.0.
Opposing teams have turned 15 drives into the Georgia red zone into seven touchdowns, only one of which came by way of a forward pass. Opposing teams have turned 18 drives into the Tennessee red zone into 11 touchdowns, seven of which have come on running plays.
Maybe the Volunteers have used the extra week to get healthy and get ready. Maybe the pressure on the Tennessee coaching staff will give them the extra impetus to defeat at home a Georgia squad that has been beaten by the Volunteers in each of the last two series meetings played in Athens.
However, Mark Richt's teams have fared well on the road and, after South Carolina's convincing win over Kentucky, the 'Dawgs know they must win tomorrow to keep pace in the S.E.C. East race and avoid an embarrassing sixth straight loss to division opponents. This is Georgia's chance to show that last year's seven-week downcycle was an aberration that ended on the Plains, since which the Bulldogs have gone 7-1; running that record to 8-1 would signal emphatically that the middle of the 2006 season was a hiccup rather than a trend. Obviously, having beaten Tennessee six times in eight years would make one statement, while losing to the Volunteers three times in four years would make another one altogether.
Which lesson will tomorrow's tussle with Tennessee teach? Della71 sure hopes it will be the right one and I believe it will be, provided that the spirit shown on the Sanford Stadium sideline last Saturday (and discovered by Watson) prevails tomorrow afternoon:
My Prediction: Georgia 31, Tennessee 27.