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No Rest For The Weary: Georgia Faces Stiff Test On The Ground Against Tennessee

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Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

Fans and analysts pointed toward this past weekend's home contest against Alabama and its stable of talented running backs as a test of the toughness of the Georgia Bulldog defense. They weren't necessarily wrong either.

It would be a mistake, however, to think that the testing ended last weekend when the final horn mercifully sounded. This week as Georgia travels to Knoxville to take on Tennessee they'll face yet another daunting stable of backs. The Red and Black defense does so just a little less fresh than they were coming into last weekend's contest, having slogged through the rain for a couple of hours chasing the likes of Derrick Henry and Damian Harris.

Bulldogs fans likely think of Tennessee head coach Butch Jones as a spread/read option coach from his prior coaching stops. And to be clear Tennessee still wants to throw the ball. But under new offensive coordinator Mike Debord the Volunteers are leaning heavily on what they've got to work with, running the ball on nearly every down and distance (something like 67% on first down, by my count). Here's a broad look at the two rushing offenses squaring off this weekend by the numbers:

SIDE-BY-SIDE RUSHING COMPARISON: GEORGIA vs. TENNESSEE

Attempts

Yards

YPA

Att./Game

Yards/Game

Georgia

188

1224

6.51

37.6

244.80

Tennessee

242

1125

4.65

48.4

225.0

Let's take a closer look at what these numbers tell us. For one, despite Georgia's reputation as a running team, Tennessee is rushing the ball a good bit more than the 'Dawgs. I'm not sure if that's because Debord doesn't have full confidence in physicist/brain/surgeon/ornithologist Josh Dobbs to throw it effectively. Or it could be due to some injuries in the Volunteer receiving corps. Whatever the reason, Tennessee has been leaning heavily on Hurd and Kamara (though Dobbs himself has been no slouch either (he's the team's second leading rusher with 250 yards so far on 55 attempts, a solid 11 runs per game).

While Tennessee isn't averaging the same monstrous 6.51 yards per attempt that Georgia is, 4.65 yards per rush ain't that bad either (though its 9th in an SEC that has been all about RUNNING THE DANG BALL so far this season).

That means that Saturday night in Knoxville, in front of 100,000+ screaming Tennesseans, the Georgia defense is going to have to forget what happened in Athens a few days ago. All 6 feet 4 inches and 240 pounds of Jalen Hurd will be coming at them full speed. If Jeremy Pruitt's unit can stop the Tennessee run game they'll give the offense a big leg up. Until later . . .

Go 'Dawgs!!!