Tennessee welcomes in Mark Richt and Georgia to Neyland Stadium on Saturday for the 41st meeting between the SEC East rivals.
Georgia (3-2, 2-1 SEC) enters the game in a three-way tie for first in the division along with No. 17 Florida and No. 18 South Carolina. Tennessee (3-1, 0-1) is in fifth place.
Four of the last five meetings have been decided by at least 18 points, with the last two being at least a 26-point differential. Tennessee lost 41-14 in Athens, Ga., last year.
“Everybody knows Georgia pretty well around here and they whipped us pretty good last year — about as good as you can get whipped,” UT coach Derek Dooley said. “They are probably as talented as any team in the league.”
Georgia quickly jumped to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter, and had the game in hand with a 27-7 lead at halftime.
Sophomore quarterbacks Tyler Bray and Aaron Murray lead their sides as arguably the two best QBs in the SEC.
Bray runs the 11th best passing game in the country, and has thrown for 1,328 yards with 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Bray went 21-of-30 with 342 yards passing and four scores against Buffalo in the first full game without star wide-out Justin Hunter, whose season ended after he tore his ACL against Florida Sept. 17.
“I have zero complaints,” Dooley said. “Never as good as we want him to be but he’s played well and now let’s see how he can play against Georgia. I’m extremely pleased. It’s hard to look at his numbers and be disappointed in what he’s doing, but I don’t want to get too excited. I just want to measure us week-to-week. We’re doing good.”
Murray is just as important to the Bulldogs as Bray is for the Volunteers. The dual-threat QB accounted for 307 of Georgia’s 402 yards of total offense in last year’s match-up, throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for another two.
“Really, if you just watch the first 10 plays of last year’s game, you could tell that once he gets outside the pocket he’s dangerous,” UT defensive backs coach Terry Joseph said of Murray, who scored on a 35-yard run last year against the Vols. “For our underneath players, it will be very important to keep an eye on him and make sure what we’re going to do when he gets out of the pocket and reduce the space and make a good tackle.”
Sophomore Da’Rick Rogers had a career-high 180 yards on seven receptions with two touchdowns against Buffalo. Rogers is now Bray’s main target with Hunter out.
Tauren Poole notched his second 100-yard game of the season against Buffalo. However, at Florida, UT’s only SEC game this season, Poole carried for just 18 yards on nine carries. With 111 yards a game, Tennessee’s running game ranks last in the SEC.
“The running game hasn’t been there all year in my opinion,” Poole said. “I have to get better at that. I haven’t really done anything this year that I was supposed to be doing.”
With the home team winning the last four meetings, Tennessee is ready to make up for last year.
“When we left Athens last year, we got our butts whipped pretty good,” Joseph said. “Physically, we got them whipped. I think it’s evident on tape, it’s evident in the score. Really, it’s going to be exciting to see a year later where are we. We said in recruiting we wanted to tag those needs, plug this JUCO guy in and bring these guys in. Now they’re here so it’ll be interesting to see how we match up against a quality team like Georgia.”