The Tennessee Volunteers go on the road this weekend and head to Athens to face the fifth ranked Georgia Bulldogs in a pivotal SEC matchup. As the biggest test to date for the Vols and their first true road game, the team will be heading to one of the most hostile environments in the country.
Head coach Derek Dooley did not take much time to discuss the team's previous win over Akron, but he mentioned that Tennessee won the main three facets of the game that he looks at. The Vols were plus 12 on big plays, plus one on turnovers and they outscored Akron 17-3 in the fourth quarter. Dooley was quick to give credit to Georgia and he knows how good they can be on both sides of the ball.
"We've got our work cut out for us, and hopefully we can take a lot of the lessons that we've learned in the first four games and try to go play as good as we can play in Athens, and see how it turns out," said Dooley.
Junior quarterback Tyler Bray has been pressured quite a bit over the past two weeks and the coaches have been working to give Bray more time in the pocket. The focus in practice has been on the running backs and improving pass protection on the blitz packages that Georgia will inevitably bring.
"They're going to bring a lot of exotic stuff trying to come at our running back and make him pick it up, so as long as we do our job we'll be fine," said Bray.
It has been two years since the Vols were in Athens, but many remember their last trip to Sanford Stadium. The previous visit ended in what was one of the worst losses in the Dooley-era as the Vols were pummeled 41-14.
One hope for revenge is Rajion Neal who has had success over the past two games with 238 yards rushing on 45 carries. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney complemented Neal's work ethic in practice and how that has attributed to his success on Saturdays.
"I just think he's getting vertical with the football a little bit better than he has in the past, and he's playing hard and it's important to him," said Chaney. "He's really practicing well."
The defense is going to be tested this week against one of the most balanced offenses in the country. Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray is averaging over ten yards per attempt, and freshman sensation Todd Gurley is averaging over nine yards per carry. Defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri was quick to talk about how good Georgia's offense is and how important every assignment is.
"They have a lot of weapons and they have a lot of explosive players, and what you got to do is be disciplined, play the right edge, do your assignment and this defense really has to play as a collective group," said Sunseri.
The Vols are looking for their first win against a ranked opponent under Dooley.
Kickoff is set for 3:30 pm E.T. on Saturday and will be nationally televised by CBS.