Showdown or meltdown?

ATHENS, Ga. - They'll meet "between the hedges" but "between a rock and a hard place" might be a more apt depiction of the Tennessee and Georgia teams who collide at 12:21 today in Sanford Stadium.

Both are traditional SEC powers, yet this contest between the Vols (2-3) and the Bulldogs (1-4) will mark the first time since 1906 that both programs entered the game with losing records.

The records are no flukes, either. Both programs are struggling mightily.

Consider:

- Tennessee ranks ninth among the 12 SEC teams in scoring at 25.2 points per game, Georgia 10th at 24.8.

- Georgia ranks eighth in total offense at 363.6 yards per game, Tennessee 10th at 332.4.

- Georgia ranks 10th in rushing at 137.0 yards per game, Tennessee 11th at 136.2.

- Georgia ranks eighth in scoring defense at 21.6 points per game and Tennessee ninth at 24.8.

- Georgia ranks eighth in rushing defense at 131.4 yards per game, Tennessee 10th at 157.0.

- Georgia ranks eighth in pass defense at 193.0 yards per game, Tennessee ninth at 219.8.

- Tennessee ranks 10th in third-down conversion defense at 37.8 percent, Georgia 12th at 42.9 percent.

Clearly, both the Vols (0-2 in league play) and the Dawgs (0-3) secured their positions at the bottom of the SEC East standings the old-fashioned way: They earned it.

Even so, Tennessee players don't see a 1-4 team when they watch Georgia on film.

"They're kind of in the same boat as us," Vol quarterback Matt Simms said. "They're an extremely talented team but both of us for some reason have failed to really push forward in the discipline aspect of the game right now.... We're both really athletic. We both have great offensive players and great defensive players. We really just need to make sure that we do everything right."

Linebacker Nick Reveiz also sees similarities between the Dawgs and the Vols in terms of their September struggles.

"Georgia's no doubt a powerhouse," he said. "They've got great players still. Their win column isn't as big and neither is ours. It's Georgia-Tennessee, and I know they're going to be ready. We are, too."

Likewise, defensive end Chris Walker believes Georgia's offense is capable of lighting up the scoreboard, even though it has not done so to date.

"I think they're a great offense, even with the struggles that they're having," he said. "They still have playmakers on their offense."

With Tennessee coming off a hard-fought 16-14 loss at No. 12 LSU, Walker believes the Vols are better than their 2-3 record indicates, as well.

"We feel better just because of the way we played in a hostile environment at Baton Rouge ... playing as well as we did," he said. "Our record is not where we want it but we're continuing to play hard and get better each week."


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