Tennessee fans released a slight exhale after the Vols escaped UMass 17-13 last Saturday. However, the relief was short-lived with the No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs coming to Knoxville this weekend. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Butch Jones may be coaching for his job Saturday. Here are four keys to Jones and the Vols playing the best game possible on Saturday.
This is an obvious choice, but expect Kelly’s large role to be the same — if not increased — against Georgia. Quarterback play has been subpar, at best, so far this year for the Vols, so Kelly’s performance will be vital. Larry Scott, GET THIS MAN THE FOOTBALL! Kelly has 450 rushing yards and six touchdowns on the ground, which gives him the SEC lead in both categories. Although the defenses he’s faced haven’t been the greatest, he has ran all over them. The defense lining up against Kelly Saturday will be the ultimate test for him.
The Defensive Front Seven
Everyone involved in Tennessee’s front seven will have to play nearly perfect in Neyland Stadium on Saturday. Georgia features a two-headed monster at tailback with Sony Michel and Nick Chubb (who have both seemingly been there for 10 years). Chubb may have a chip on his shoulder in Neyland Stadium after his last trip to Knoxville, which ended early in the first quarter with a knee injury. Kirby Smart’s decision to stay with Jake Fromm or switch back to Jacob Eason at quarterback will be one to watch, but the run game will be how this matchup is decided. Kahlil McKenzie, Shy Tuttle, Kendal Vickers, Jonathan Kongbo, Darrell Taylor, Colton Jumper, Daniel Bituli and Quart’e Sapp have to contain these running backs and disrupt the passing game. Georgia is averaging an incredible 223.3 rushing yards per game this season, so if the Vols can bring that to a halt and take care of the football, then Butch Jones may yet get his third consecutive win against the Bulldogs.
Brent Cimaglia/Aaron Medley
If Medley doesn’t have the powerful leg and you don’t trust him, then make Cimaglia your guy and stick with him. After three field goals missed against Florida and another miss against UMass, Tennessee has to find consistency. I would love to think the Vols can run up and down the field and stay in the checkerboard all day long on Saturday, but that isn’t too realistic, so special teams will be crucial. As General Neyland said, “Press the kicking game … Here is where the breaks are made.”
As we all saw this past week, Neyland Stadium was darn near empty in the fourth quarter when the Vols were struggling against UMass. For many, the nail has been put in Butch’s coffin. Many are already writing the Vols off this week. Checker Neyland will be in full effect on Saturday and Tennessee will be in its Smokey Grey uniforms. The stage is set for the atmosphere to be a great one, but it will be up to the fans. If you’re already out on Butch, then show up for the players, show up for the tradition, show up to be loud and disrupt the young Georgia quarterback (regardless of which one starts), and show up to let all of the recruits know what Tennessee is all about. Georgia fans took over Notre Dame in Week 2, and a similar look would be terrible for the Vols.