Georgia needs to get the humiliating loss to Alabama in its rear-view mirror as quick as possible because acing Tennessee is definitely going to require all of its attention and concentration.
Though the Bulldogs (4-1, 2-1 SEC) have won five straight against the Vols (2-3, 0-2), anyone who’s watched those games knows full well that several of them could have gone the other way.
In fact, based on the current trend, there’s no reason to expect the margin in Saturday’s game to be more than a point or two. During its current streak, Georgia’s wins over Tennessee have come by 27, eight, seven, three and three points. And that last victory at Neyland Stadium, as most will recall, came largely as a result of Pig Howard losing control of the football before he crossed the plane of the end zone in 2013.
Bulldogs coach Mark Richt expects nothing different this time.
“It’s going to go down to the wire,” he said. “It’s not going to be any different than in year’s past. We’ know they’re very talented, we know they’ll play hard as heck, we know their fans are loud. It’s going to be very difficult to hear anything, let alone signals. Sometimes it gets so loud it’s hard to hear each other on the headsets because the noise goes right in the mic. It’s one of those kinds of places. We’ve got to deal with the noise, we’ve got to deal with the talent base. We’ve got to make sure we execute under those kinds of circumstances.”
Georgia defensive back Dominick Sanders used the phrases “moved on” or “moving on” eight times in a span of just over two minutes during interviews after practice on Monday. That’s according to my colleague Seth Emerson, who counted.
“We’re keeping our head straight,” said Sanders, who had four tackles and a pass break-up in the Bulldogs’ 38-10 loss to Alabama. “We’re not gonna let one loss bring us down. We’re gonna maintain our work ethic, keep it high, keep our goals where they’re supposed to be. Now we’re just moving forward to Tennessee.”
Yes, make that nine with “moving forward” as well.
“Just moving on is the main thing,” Sanders said. “Obviously we didn’t win the game. It’s hard to move on from that, but we’ve got Tennessee this week so that’s what we’re worrying about.”
And this is yet another huge game for Tennessee coach Butch Jones as the natives are starting to get a little restless in Knoxville. A season that started with such promise is on the verge of unraveling.
For the Big Orange Nation, it’s difficult to tell which is worse, the Vols’ record (2-3, 0-2 SEC) or how they got there. Tennessee had double-digit leads in all three games it lost to Oklahoma, Florida and Arkansas.
Only six teams have held leads of 13 or more points in all of their 2015 games. Temple, Navy, Baylor, LSU and Florida State are all undefeated.
“I know everybody hurts,’’ Jones told reporters during UT’s media day in Knoxville on Monday. “I hurt along with everyone. But just like in life, you have to get up.’’
The bad news for Tennessee is it lost those games. The good news is it managed to get up double digits on two teams that are now ranked 10th and 11th in Oklahoma and Florida, respectively, by The Associated Press.