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3 Things That Worry Me About Tennessee

A former conference blueblood, suddenly on the upswing, riding the longest winning streak in Power 5 football, with a former UGA coach on the sidelines and a former UGA lineman starting on offense, facing our former offensive coordinator armed with a veteran quarterback, all with Gary Danielson in the booth. What, me worry?

Tennessee v Vanderbilt
UT lost to Vandy on this day, 38-13. The only thing more glorious than UGA beating Tennessee is Vandy doing it.
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Here is what I’m NOT worried about for Saturday’s tilt against UT:

1) Calling your own number. Volunteer quarterback Jarrett Gaurantano did just that last year, and painfully paid the price for that decision. That chewing out was in the spotlight and I’m fairly certain Guarantano has learned to follow in strict accordance with signals coming from UT Offensive Coordinator and KFC Double-Down aficionado Jim Chaney. He ain’t goin’ rogue no more, so we don’t have to worry about a Manziel-type performance. Just stick to the script, boys.

2) Taking the top off. The UT offense has been successful in airing the ball downfield, averaging 8.3 yards per completion (UGA is only 6.7 ypc including Mathis, 7.9 for Bennett alone). But two things make me feel better: who Tennessee has played thus far, and that they are now facing Georgia. It’s early in the 2020 but I don’t think anyone is calling Mizzou or SCAR an elite defense. And on the season, Georgia has only surrendered 5 passing plays of greater than 20 yards, good for 2nd in the SEC. Once a lead is built, the Bulldog Defense is even more geared to keeping the play in front of them with 2 deep, safety help, and lots of assignments meant to disguise the coverage.

3) The Fan seating charts. Much has been made, pictures have been passed along, politics bantered, official statements have been agonized over, and protocols tweaked. It will create feelings of relief in some, frustration in others. But the only seating I’m personally concerned about is which Mity-Lite folding chairs have been assigned to guests and visiting team families? /Checks UGAA official attendance policy, notes no visiting tickets are made available. See? I’m glad all that is sorted out. Nothing to worry about, folks.

Now forgive me, as I was weaned at the nipple of Larry Munson’s scratch on AM radio, so here’s what I AM worried about:

1) Has anyone checked on Stetson today? That dinged up hand in the Auburn game really had me shook. Mostly because I’m not sure we’re 2-0 without Stetson Bennett IV. We very likely are, but I’m not certain. He brought moxie, a gamer mentality, good decision-making, and surprising athleticism. Scratch that “surprising” part – after all, he was the UGA scout team quarterback that mimicked Baker Mayfield in the runup to the 2018 Rose Bowl. But he was the scout team quarterback. Then he went to a community college. If Kirby Smart and Todd Monken have decided he’s our best option, put that kid in a bubble. Inside the team bubble. And cover it all with plexiglass.

2) Something’s gotta give. Tennessee has rushed for 6 touchdowns this young season. Jarrett Guarantano has more rushing touchdowns in 2 games than the Georgia Defense has given up in almost 2 seasons (not counting post-season). Most of UT’s rushing scores have been from inside the 2, and that is a tall task to stonewall a good offensive line and good running backs (with a good running QB) more than once a game at the goal line. And with our rush, our speed at linebacker, and our hitters in the secondary, I wonder how many big runs anyone can generate on the ‘Dawg D. The question is: will Georgia even allow Tennessee to get that deep?

Orange Offensive line coach Will Friend (sound familiar?) has his boys doin’ work up front, letting senior Ty Chandler and sophomore Eric Gray rush for over a 5 yard per carry average, and both are inside the top 10 rushers in the SEC. And of course the Georgia defense is #1 in conference, allowing only 58 yards per game (matter of fact, Georgia could be 100% worse and still be top 10 in conference). Chaney, Friend, Pruitt… you know all of them want to put up a ground game and beat Georgia at its own game.

3) Orange is not the new Black (& Red). The teams are built similarly, from the inside out. Head coach Jeremy Pruitt has done a lot on the recruiting trail to bolster the linemen on both sides, and hand-picking some athletes for the plays in space.

The offense is balanced, the defense is mostly devoid of star names, and they’re not turning the ball over. In fact, they have no turnovers on the year. They are also not penalized much (side note: take away that abomination of a first half against Arkansas and we’d be in much better standing). They are building something on the river in Knoxville, and not just more potential disruptions to ancient burial grounds. This is a good team, albeit in creamsicle, and they will be hungry to displace the king of the SEC East.

Call me crazy, just don’t call me late for dinner. Sound off in the comments below what worries you about our contest between the Bulldogs of Georgia and the Volunteers of Tennessee.

And as always…