Too Little Information: Georgia Bulldogs at Tennessee Volunteers

We are at the point in the week at which I ordinarily would offer a segment I call "Too Much Information," which has been a staple of my college football commentary dating back to the days when my brother-in-law, Travis Rice, and I co-hosted "The Dawg Show" on local cable. This week, though, I’m going to deviate from the norm somewhat.

There are two reasons for this. First of all, It has been a long week in these parts, and I will confess to you up front that I plan on making it an early night this evening. I’m just beat, and any breakdown I had to offer would be deficient, and I didn’t want to let all of you down after Doug already disappointed us with his pregame analysis after we all anticipated Holly would be named the "associated hottie." (Then again, I disappointed Doug when I evidently misused the word "myriad," so I guess we’re even.)

Secondly, virtually nothing in the numbers gives me cause for confidence about tomorrow’s game. Yeah, the Georgia Bulldogs have beaten three BCS conference opponents and played a down-to-the-wire ballgame against the LSU Tigers, while the Tennessee Volunteers have yet to beat a team with a pulse, but Georgia has won three close ones while Tennessee has lost three nailbiters, and the law of averages has to catch up to both teams sooner or later.

If you’re wondering why I’m afraid it might be sooner and "sooner" might come, oh, around 12:30 tomorrow, check out where the two teams stand in the SEC:

Statistical Category Tennessee Georgia
Scoring Offense 6th (29.4) 8th (27.2)
Scoring Defense 7th (19.6) 11th (27.8)
Total Offense 6th (376.8) 10th (340.6)
Total Defense 5th (278.2) 11th (358.2)
Rushing Offense 6th (188.0) 12th (98.8)
Rushing Defense 5th (114.4) 8th (121.4)
Pass Defense 7th (163.8) 11th (236.8)
First Downs 3rd (21.2) 9th (16.0)
Penalties 1st (28.8) 11th (74.6)

Even in the areas where Georgia appears to have an advantage seem suspect upon closer review. The Bulldogs rank ahead of the Volunteers in red zone offense because Georgia scores 93.3 per cent of the time inside the 20 and Tennessee comes away with points 90.5 per cent of the time, but the Big Orange have the advantage over the Red and Black in red zone chances (21-15), red zone scores (19-14), total touchdowns (13-7), rushing touchdowns (7-2), and passing touchdowns (6-5).

Likewise, the ‘Dawgs are slightly ahead of the Vols in red zone defense, with Tennessee conceding a score 90 per cent of the time and Georgia giving up points 85 per cent of the time. However, both teams’ defenses have allowed 20 trips inside the 20 yard line, with the Big Orange’s opponents scoring 18 times and the Classic City Canines’ foes scoring 17 times. That’s a pretty negligible distinction, particularly since the Bulldogs have given up eight red zone touchdowns and the Volunteers have given up seven.

Consequently, there is no traditional Too Much Information breakdown this week. There is no Feel Good Stat of the Week, because, frankly, nothing about this week’s stats makes me feel at all well about tomorrow’s game.

Is this the week Mark Richt’s "away field advantage" continues in Knoxville, where he has won three times in four tries, or is this the week all that talent and all those assistants finally overcome the handicap of having Lane Kiffin as their head coach? Is tomorrow the day Georgia beats Tennessee for the seventh time in ten years or is tomorrow the day Tennessee beats Georgia for the fourth time in six years?

This is a big game. It almost certainly will be a season-defining showdown and it might possibly be a contest that makes a statement about the respective trajectories of the competing programs. It’s one thing to lose to Mike Gundy, whose infamous outburst actually demonstrated that he was a head coach who was willing to stand up for his players and who was passionate about succeeding at his alma mater, or to Les Miles, who comes across as crazy but who is crazy like a fox; losing to this goober might push me over the line and cause me to join tankertoad in setting up FireEverybody.com.

But wait . . .

Let’s not forget that Georgia ranks third in the league in passing offense (241.8 yards per game) and in passing touchdowns (11) . . . or that no team in the conference has thrown as many interceptions as Tennessee (8) . . . or that the Volunteer defense has picked off as few passes as the Bulldog D (3) . . . or that the Big Orange boast the SEC’s worst kickoff coverage team and have half as many touchbacks (3) as the league-leading (!) ‘Dawgs (6) . . . or that Tennessee ranks ninth in the conference in third-down conversions (36.8%) . . . or that the Vols have almost as many giveaways (12) as the Red and Black (13) . . . or that Tennessee averages 16.7 points per game against BCS conference competition . . . or that the rest of the Big Orange’s stats have been padded by a pair of patsy opponents while the Bulldogs have been trading punches with the big boys every week so far this season . . . or that Matt Hinton picked us to win.

All right, doggone it, I’m going to do it. . . .

My Prediction: Georgia 21, Tennessee 17.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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