It's time once again for my hit or miss (mostly miss) list of the five things you'll see when Mark Richt's Georgia Bulldogs take on the orange clad gang from Johnny Majors' Academy for Schadenfreude From the Crypt. In no particular order, you'll see:
1) Lennon Creer and Montario Hardesty: Arian Foster may or may not have his head screwed on quite right these days. He's talking pterodactyl for Heaven's sake, which either means: a) that he's loose as a goose, about to go all Clinton Portis on us, and will be asking you to leave his SEC Offensive Player of the Week plaque on the coffee table next to his clown shoes and rainbow afro, or b) he's one trademark fumble away from picking off members of the Vol Navy with a high powered rifle. Either way, Tennessee's other two running backs will get some carries. And they're not too shabby themselves. We all remember Hardesty's effort against the Bulldogs last season, and Creer has so far exhibited why Georgia was pushing for his commitment right up until he donned the ugly orange.
Both are big and elusive enough to break tackles in the open field, a trait which worries me a little coming off a bye week in which we traded some full contact work for the chance to get healthy. Those restful bye weeks can sometimes leave a little rust, which we can ill afford against these guys. anybody getting nervous yet, or is it just me?
2) Pressure on Nick Stephens: Tennessee's young quarterback was a workmanlike 10 of 17 for 156 yards against the Northern Illinois Huskies. But there's a world of difference between that and putting in a game winning performance against even a passable SEC defense. Hey, we have a passable SEC defense! Serendipity! Unlike John Parker Wilson and Rudy Carpenter, Stephens will have trouble with pressure, especially if we can show some new and different looks in the second half. Tennessee runs the ball well, but not well enough to move the ball on the road in the SEC without some semblance of a passing game. This prediction isn't exactly rocket science, but it may ultimately be the key to the game. It's also worth pointing out that we didn't exactly have a world-beating pass rush last season until after the bye week. I think history will repeat itself.
3) A third quarter to remember: Fulmer will be trying to protect Stephens as much as possible early, letting him build confidence and get his feet under him in a hostile environment. As the second half begins however, he's either going to be coming from behind or getting a little more leash after having done the things necessary to get the lead. Georgia, conversely, has scored 8 points or more in the 3rd quarter in four of five games this season (and double digits 3 times). One way or the other, this game may well turn in the third.
4) Fewer penalties: Perhaps this one is just wishful thinking. but I understand that there's been a lot more emphasis on penalties this week. In my experience, penalties, like missed tackles, tend to be corrected simply by making them a primary focus of the practice regimen. Coach Richt has done that. That's especially important against a tennessee team that won't need any extra help to keep this one close. If we have a couple of boneheaded ones early however, I'm going to get worried. Very worried.
5) UGA 24, UT 20: I wish i could say that the 'Dawgs are going to come out and get back on track toward a successful season. But I can't. For one, my hubris tends to get me in trouble. For another, I think that Tennessee's stifling run defense and potent rushing offense matches up well against our demonstrated shortcomings. It's not going to be easy at all. Make no mistake, this game gives me that vague sense of dread you can only get from an envelope from the IRS or a visit from Phil Fulmer. But in the last 8 minutes of this game, one quarterback will have the chance to win or lose this game. I think ours will win it. Theirs will lose it. See you after the game. Until then . . .