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3 Things That Worry Me About Tennessee

A juggernaut Georgia Bulldog team seemingly firing on all cylinders, traveling to an alleged Aztec killing field, facing an embattled coach trying to save his job, bringing a quarterback looking for a breakout game and a signature win, all slathered in a horrid shade of orange. What, me worry?

NCAA Football: Massachusetts at Tennessee Knoxville News Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK

Here are the three things that I’m NOT worried about Saturday:

1) OC Larry Scott. He played offensive tackle for USF, but has been primarily a tight ends coach since 2007. He was the interim coach at Miami, post-Golden and pre-Mark Richt. But moved to Tennessee last season. And was promoted to the OC spot after 2016 OC Mike DeBord decided that a coordinator position at Indiana University was preferable to the same position under Butch Jones in Knoxville. They are currently ranked #87 nationally in total offense, a drop from #40 last season (granted, sans Josh Dobbs, Alvin Kamara, and Jalen Hurd). Seems like the Volunteer faithful don’t have such faith in tight ends coach promoted to OC with no prior experience.

2) Tennessee QB play. Last week, Quentin Dormady only put up 184 passing yards against a UMass team that was allowing almost 400 per game in total offense. And 123 of those yards were to a single receiver. He’s averaging 215 yards passing a game, but this includes games against Indiana State and UMass (I’ve give him that Florida is good, and Georgia Tech isn’t horribad). He’s thrown 4 picks to boot. While these numbers aren’t bad, they are usually in concert with a strong running game (see: Fromm, Jake; Chubb, Nick). But UT only puts up about 156 yards a game running too. The offense is stagnant, and Josh Dobbs isn’t there to pull out miracles.

3) The spotlight. While I am worried about unfounded cockiness, I am not worried about Georgia shrinking from the spotlight. We started the season with mediocre expectations, and a solid if unspectacular win cemented those. Then a huge game for the program and fanbase (if not nationally – TBD) on national TV resulted in a clutch 4th quarter comeback. Georgia was riding high and methodically took down Samford without having to risk much, so they are living up to and exceeding expectations at this point – no close game against a Sun Belt or SoCon team. Then under the lights at Samford, against a ballyhooed opponent, Coach Kirby Smart technically and with vigor dismantled a pretty good SEC opponent. The stakes have been raised each game (in terms of expectations), and the Bulldogs have consistently played looser, but even more sound, each passing week. I expect the same at Tennessee.

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

1) Fumbles, we got ‘em. Apparently, it’s in the water. Here’s an interesting stat: So far this season Georgia Tech has lost 6 fumbles, Georgia State has lost 5, Georgia Southern has lost 4, and UGA has lost 3. Snickering at Little Brother aside, it seems we literally fumble away a good scoring opportunity in the 2nd quarter every game. Notre Dame scored a TD after a botched handoff in the 2nd quarter; immediately after Samford scored a 2Q TD, Fromm fumbled again on a scramble (luckily they missed a FG); last Saturday vs. MSU, the fumble (Swift was down!) killed some very good momentum and prevented Georgia from putting the game away before halftime. Let’s not try that again this week, shall we? I don’t want to give the orange-clad fans a reason to cheer and provide their team confidence.

2) Tennessee RB Kelly. The junior from Detroit has proven so far to be the only rushing threat. He’s the only back with more than 70 total yards, and is averaging about a buck-twelve per game and over 5.5 per attempt. I don’t know if he has breakaway speed, but he is a bit of a workhorse, toting about 18 times per contest (Herschel yawns, rolls over and goes back to his 1,000 sit-ups). This all adds up to one of the only bright spots on the Creamsicle offense, and he is definitely a fan favorite. UGA has been stellar against the rush so far in 2017 (#17 at just over 95 yards/game), but we did give up 177 last week to a pretty stout Mississippi St. rushing attack, and neither I nor Kirby are satisfied in this area. Matter of fact, I’m worried we have a slip-up.

3) Close games. Sure you’ve heard about how the last 6 games have been decided by 8 points or less. Sure you know about the last couple of years. But I’m looking at trends here. UGA is 5-2 over the last 7 games decided by a touchdown. UT is 4-3 over their last 7 close ones (3 decided in OT, all wins). Has Kirby Smart turned our mojo around? Or is the recent Florida hail mary some penance for Butch Jones and the voodoo priestess he pays homage to (and who also cuts his hair)? I don’t know, but this is too close for my comfort, so I do honestly fear anything close to a close game.

What worries you about Butch Jones and his attempt to save his job Saturday afternoon? Leave it in the comments below, and as always…