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3 Things that Worry Me About Tennessee

UGA finally returns to Sanford Stadium, where we escaped unmitigated disaster have dominated our competition so far in 2016. We’re facing an undefeated UT squad, ranked #11 in the country, who is coming off a championship caliber comeback against a divisional rival who previously had their number.  UGA meanwhile comes home trying to fix a pass rush, sub-par offensive line play, receivers that can’t catch, and special teams that are kicking themselves (and missed).  What, me worry?

Georgia v Tennessee
We will see this Saturday. Will we stop it?
Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Our Georgia Bulldogs return home after a rough, not unexpected, and debatably successful road trip. The good news? We’re at home, and have a chance to claim control of the SEC East. The bad news? We’re facing a team in the Tennessee Volunteers that is likely the 2nd or 3rd most talented we will see all season.

However, here are the three things that I’m NOT worried about Saturday:

1. Disconnect on sense of urgency between players and coaches. I feel pretty certain that the staff communicated effectively to the roster this week, possibly in the form of stadium steps and Oklahoma drills. The players may choose to ignore it, the coaches might have some bad play calls, but I’m certain all are aware of the problems.

2. The weather. It was hot in Oxford last Saturday. You’d think the lack of an air conditioned IPF at UGA would mean our boys were well-prepared to slog it out in the heat and humidity more than other teams. I haven’t heard too much finger-pointing at the heat, but it ain’t gonna be an excuse this week anyway. Daytime temps are in the low 80’s, as fall finally creeps into northeast Georgia. A beautiful day for football Between The Hedges.

3. Kirby’s choice of hat. He opened the season with the visor, and got a huge OOC win against a Power 5 school. Thus, no reason to change the mojo. He wears it for Nicholls State and wins. Still no reason to change. He takes it to CoMo and walks away with a last-second victory against a divisional foe. All the more reason to take the visor to Oxford. After that... I think the visor will be retired and we’ll see something new.

Here are the (first) three things that I AM worried about Saturday:

1. Time of Possession. Of the three FBS schools we’ve faced, their offense averages under 24 minutes per game (by comparison, UGA is averaging a shade under 35 minutes a game). Those schools collective record is 8-7. They are all quick-strike offenses, thus they score quickly and let their defense bear the brunt. Their total offense ranks are #27 (UNC), #14 (Mizzou), and #31 (Ole Miss).

But with all that, UGA now faces a 4-0 team with time of possession clocking in at 28:47 per game, almost 20% more. And is still the #56 offense in the country. Georgia plods along at the #93 spot in these offensive rankings. So if we’re 2-1 against the high powered offenses, how are we going to perform against a team that keeps our offense off the field? If we thought UGA had trouble scoring in our first 4 games, what in the world will happen Saturday?

2. Joshua Dobbs rushing. I’m not extremely concerned about his passing, it’s his legs I’m worried about. Dobbs has thrown over 200 yards only twice: 203 vs. Ohio, and 319 against Florida. So even though his passing is improving, for me the issue is that he is really starting to get his legs under him.

He rushed for negative 4 yards vs. Appalachian State. Then put up 106 against VaTech. He followed that up with 59 yards against Ohio, and now 80 yards against the vaunted Florida defense. The rest of the UT rushing attack has average numbers statistically, but we know how talented Hurd and Kamara are, and UGA has a nice history of giving Volunteers their signature individual performances (Crompton nightmares resume). But I worry that Dobbs has figured out what we already know… he really isn’t that accurate. Instead of trying to falsely perpetuate “Dobbs is a NFL pocket passer”, he now knows if a receiver isn’t wide-slap open and the contain is broken, that he can run and make a positive play. Chad Kelly did it, but only sparingly. I expect to see a lot of it from Dobbs.

3. The Tennessee defense specifically performing against our UGA offense. They’ve experienced some injuries to key defensive players, but they are still only allowing 3.8 yards per rush, and have improved each game (other than allowing 2.93 vs Ohio, then 3.4 yards/rush vs. UF). UGA’s anemic run-blocking is somehow averaging 4.58 yards per rush, but if you take away Chubb’s comeback performance against UNC (outlier) and the garbage-time rushing stats versus Ole Miss, we’re probably lower than 4.0, and right in line with what they’ve given up so far.

The UT pass defense doesn’t seem to be their strong suit. They’re giving up 7.45 yards per attempt, and the aforementioned injuries have been in their secondary. Only 5 sacks so far, and only 2 interceptions, so the pass rush doesn’t seem to create picks. Where I might normally see this as an area to exploit, I come crashing back to earth remembering it’s the Georgia passing attack. The one that drops passes, allows for blindside hits to the QB, that has thrown a pick the last three games, has a completion percentage of 52%, and a mere 6.53 yards per pass attempt. Not to mention other stats about our offense when under duress. Talk about deflating… yeesh. I fully expect UT to keep to the basics (load box on run downs, sprinkle in a blitz or two), of which we don’t seem able to overcome.

If this game gets ugly, we will hear just as many Lundquist roster pronunciation gaffes as we will Lundquist irrelevant reminisces of Arnold Palmer. And I’d much rather keep Uncle Verne on task and away from the bottle. So hitch up your giddy-up, and join me in buying the pallet of Mylanta from Costco.

What are the 3 things that worry you about Tennessee? Put them in the comments below, and as always…