5 questions: Tennessee beat writer shares keys for Vols’ upset hopes
ATHENS — There are two sides to every story depending on one’s vantage point, so it only made sense to head north to the Tennessee Valley for another perspective on Georgia’s game on Saturday.
The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs (2-0) play the No. 14 Vols (2-0) at 3:30 p.m. (TV: CBS).
Austin Price covered Tennessee for VolQuest.com, the school’s Rivals.com website, and shared his insight with DawgNation.
Here are five questions and answers about the upcoming game, with Georgia looking to snap the Vols’ 8-win streak, and Tennessee looking to snap a 33-game losing streak to Top 10 opponents:
1. If there’s one matchup area where Tennessee has an advantage over Georgia, where would it be?
AP: While (UT kicker) Brent Cimaglia is 1 of 3 on the young season, the senior carries a ton of confidence and his two misses are of the long variety. Sophomore Paxton Brooks has been really solid to start the season in punting, and he has been very good on kickoffs.
With that said, I would give the Vols the edge and the kicking game on Saturday. Last year Georgia was hands-down the better team across the board at all positions.
This year I think there are several instances where you could say things are a push or way more even. Tennessee’s offensive line against the Dawgs defensive line would be one of those areas.
Tennessee also is more experienced at quarterback with Jarrett Guarantano being much more solid in Year Two under Jim Chaney.
2. What has made Jim Chaney such an effective play caller and offensive coordinator for the Vols?
AP: Coach Chaney has been more committed to the run with Tennessee’s added strength along the offensive trenches.
Chaney has been able to get his key play makers the ball this year, along with his recent stops at Pittsburgh, Arkansas and in Athens when he was with Georgia. He knows how to take younger players who don’t have as much experience and give them a small package that they do well, and then fit them into the scheme and flow of the offense.
3. On a scale of 1 to 10, rate the confidence level of Tennessee football as it rolls into Athens.
AP: The fans are at an 8 or 9. The team I think is probably at a 7 or 8, as they are believing they belong more than any time in recent memory. The older players who had some scars left over from the Butch Jones Era have seen enough success in Tennessee’s eight-game win streak to have a greater belief than they had one year ago at this time.
Tennessee’s younger players have mostly come from winning programs, so Tennessee’s recent success is something they had envisioned when they came to play for Jeremy Pruitt.
4. If there’s one area where the Vols might struggle matching up with the Bulldogs, where would it be?
AP: I wonder if the Tennessee defensive line will be able to stop Georgia’s running game. Tennessee will have to put extra people in the box, in my opinion, to make sure that George’s massive offense of line doesn’t have his way too much early.
Pruitt has improved the line of scrimmage so much on both sides of the ball, but I don’t think Tennessee has any real standouts in the defensive trenches. They do have quality depth and a number of solid players, though, so this will be a prove-it type of game for that group.
5. What are the key to the game and what’s your prediction?
AP: I’ll leave my prediction for our site on Friday afternoon, but I think the keys to the game will be who can impose their will early in this football game.
If Tennessee falls behind early and is forced to throw a lot, I think that plays into Georgia’s hands and gives the Bulldogs a huge advantage.
For Tennessee to pull off the upset, they are going to have to drag this game into a rock fight and win the game much like they did in 2004, when they came in a prohibitive underdog against former UGA stars David Green, David Pollack and the rest of that top-five Georgia team.
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