Tennessee’s performance against the UMass Minutemen was abysmal. No getting around it .
The Vols struggled greatly in a game that was supposed to be a tune-up for what comes next: the No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs, who are 4-0 and are fresh off annihilating a top-20 Mississippi State team.
Even though Tennessee has had UGA’s number in classic games for the previous two years, the main architects of those games are either gone (Josh Dobbs, Jalen Hurd, Derek Barnett) or won’t be available Saturday (Jauan Jennings). It is a game that is paramount to the future of head coach Butch Jones and the Tennessee football program.
With that cheerful intro out of the way, here is a look at Tennessee-Georgia by the numbers:
2 – The number of SEC games that Tennessee has won since defeating Georgia with the Hail Mary Between the Hedges last October. The win got the Vols to 5-0 for the first time since the 1998 national championship season and it’s been a bumpy ride since then. Tennessee lost three consecutive games to fall to 5-3, before finishing out the regular season 8-4 with SEC wins over Kentucky and Missouri. The Vols ended the conference schedule with a loss at Vanderbilt and this year’s SEC slate started less than ideally with a devastating loss to Florida. That makes Jones and the Vols 2-5 in their last seven SEC match-ups. It’s funny what you can see when you take a closer look at the “Tennessee is 18-5 in its last 23 games” narrative.
5 – The number of passing attempts that quarterback Jarrett Guarantano had against UMass. Jones said that Guarantano was going to play against the Minutemen, but it was hard to imagine that he would be put in with the Vols nursing a slim lead with under three minutes left in the third quarter. The redshirt freshman had a…not good outing in three series, going 2-of-5 for minus-three yards with four rushing yards on three attempts. Granted, he wasn’t helped out by Brandon Johnson, who dropped an easy catch on third down. However, if Quinten Dormady struggles against UGA, how long will Jones wait to give Guarantano the reigns? Or will we see him at all?
5.2 – The average margin of victory in this series over the last six meetings. This game has brought close contests and thrilling finishes so far this decade with the the largest margin of victory for either team being eight points in 2011. Even some outclassed Vols teams under Derek Dooley and Jones have managed to stay in the game the whole way through and each team has presented each other a tough task in recent memory. This comes after each meeting from 2005-10 was decided by an average of 19.5 points.
7 – The number of touchdowns that Georgia’s true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm has thrown this season. Fromm was thrust into the starting role after Jacob Eason went down with a sprained knee early in the Dawgs’ season opener against Appalachian State. So far, Fromm has been very serviceable in his role in Georgia’s offense with a 7-1 TD-INT ratio with a 65 percent completion percentage. He is coming into the game against Tennessee after an efficient 9-of-12, 201 YDS, 2 TD performance against Mississippi State where Fromm started the night completing his first eight passes. Fromm is good for what offensive coordinator Jim Chaney does with the UGA offense, but how will he handle playing in his first, true hostile road environment? No, Notre Dame never counts.
10 – The number of sacks that Tennessee’s defense has so far. The Vols went up against a terrible UMass offensive line and Bob Shoop’s unit feasted, racking up seven sacks on the day, Tennessee’s most in a game since 2008. The Vols are now tied for fourth in the SEC in sacks which is a good sight to see after only having one through the first two games. Disrupting UGA’s offensive line will be crucial on Saturday and won’t be easy since they have a been solid, allowing just three sacks in four games.
11.5 – The number of the average PPG that the Georgia defense has allowed which is good for 8th in the FBS. The Bulldogs’ defense was expected to be one of the better units in the nation, since they returned 10 starters from a group that was 16th in the FBS in total defense in 2016. Georgia is coming off of their most impressive defense performance of the young season in holding a Mississippi State team that scored 37 on a good LSU defense to just three points. The Bulldogs have an insanely talented defensive roster. Linebackers Roquan Smith and Lorenzo Carter and defensive tackle Trenton Thompson are major impact players to keep an eye on, among others.
45 – The number of the total meetings between these two programs. Tennessee leads the all-time series 23-21-2. The Vols have played Georgia annually since the SEC created divisions in 1992. Before that, the teams only met a total of 21 times from 1899 to 1989 with notable meetings including a 17-17 tie in 1968 (the first meeting between the teams since 1937), true freshman Herschel Walker running over poor Bill Bates en route to a 16-15 Georgia win in 1980 and the Vols winning a close 17-14 contest at home over a Dawgs squad that started Bill freaking Goldberg at DT. That win started a streak of 10 straight for the Vols before UGA reeled off four-in-a-row from 2000-03. Georgia has a 6-4 advantage in the series over the past ten seasons with the Vols owning back-to-back wins over the Dawgs.
123 – The number of receiving yards that Tennessee wide receiver Brandon Johnson hauled in against UMass. Coming into the game, Johnson’s career highs for catches and receiving yards in a game was five and 64, both against Tennessee Tech in 2016. He surpassed both of those numbers in the first half against the Minutemen before finishing the game with seven catches for the aforementioned 123 yards. Johnson could’ve added to his impressive day if he had not dropped a perfectly placed ball from Guarantano in the second half as well. Johnson was the No. 1 target for Dormady against UMass over early season star Marquez Callaway, who was only targeted once and had no receptions. Johnson’s play is a welcome sight to see but other weapons will have to make an appearance if the Vols are to beat Georgia.
450 – The number of rushing yards Tennessee running back John Kelly has through four games. Despite not finding many running lanes against UMass, Kelly still managed to rush for 101 yards–his third time breaking the century mark this season–keeping up his pace as the SEC’s leading rusher, 75 yards ahead of Missouri’s Damarea Crockett. Kelly is also tied for fifth in the conference in receptions with 18. Kelly has proven himself to be one of the top offensive weapons in the nation and he will have to show out again against a Georgia defense that is allowing only 2.62 yards per rush.
4,012 – The number of days it will have been since Tennessee has defeated a top-10 opponent come Saturday. There was an interesting graphic on my TL about how the Vols have fared versus the top-10 over the last decade on Monday:
How dare fans expect more!https://t.co/NWhsm8Wpnj
— Houston Kress (@VolRumorMill) September 25, 2017
Looking at the date shows that Paul Finebaum’s tweet is actually from May of 2016, BUT that only means that now the record 0-26 versus top-10 teams since Tennessee defeated No. 9 Georgia in 2006. Yikes. Thank you to our own Will Warren for bringing the depressing statistics:
Georgia will be ranked No. 7 when they roll into Knoxville this weekend. Can the Vols end their futility against top-10 teams or will the losing streak go to 27?