Devil's Advocate

Check out this season's fifth edition of InsideTennessee's Devil's Advocate series in which two staff members break down why their assigned team will win on Saturday.

We at InsideTennessee love a good debate. That's why we think you'll enjoy Devil's Advocate. Each week one staffer presents evidence why Tennessee will win/beat the spread, while another staffer offers a spirited rebuttal on behalf of the opposing team.

Here are this week's arguments:

DAWGS HAVE FOUND THEIR BITE

By Randy Moore

It says a lot about the Tennessee Vols that their longest scrimmage run this season was a 30-yarder last Saturday vs. Buffalo ... by punter Matt Darr.

Conversely, the Georgia team that visits Neyland Stadium Saturday night is getting tremendous production from its ground game. Brandon Boykin had an 80-yard run vs. fifth-ranked Boise State and fabulous freshman Isaiah Crowell is averaging 5.2 yards per carry and 103 yards per game as the No. 1 tailback.

Balance is important to an offense, and Georgia has it. The Dawgs average 176.2 rushing yards and 237.6 passing yards per game. Conversely, the Vols average 336.5 passing yards and just 111.0 rushing yards per game. Basically, three out of every four Big Orange yards come through the air.

Even Florida couldn't stop Tennessee's awesome aerial circus, surrendering 288 passing yards and three passing TDs. But the Gators put the clamps on Tennessee's not-so-awesome ground attack, holding the Vols to minus-9 rushing yards en route to a 33-23 victory.

That's a bad omen for the Big Orange because Georgia's run defense is even stouter than Florida's. The Dawgs limited a ground-hugging Mississippi State team to just 56 yards on 34 carries last week and held Ole Miss to 34 yards on 26 carries a week earlier.

Another bad omen: Georgia is outstanding on special teams with returning All-SEC punter Drew Butler and All-SEC kicker Blair Walsh back for their senior seasons. Then there's Boykin, who has three 100-yard kickoff returns in his career, including one vs. the Big Orange two years ago. Tennessee's special teams, conversely, are an accident waiting to happen.

Still another bad omen: Bulldog quarterback Aaron Murray had a 35-yard touchdown run vs. Tennessee last season and is the kind of mobile QB who typically gives the Vols fits.

Yet another bad omen: Since dropping their first two games to Boise State and South Carolina, the Dawgs have found their bite - trouncing Coastal Carolina 59-0, Ole Miss 27-13 and Mississippi State 24-10.

Finally, Georgia has more at stake than Tennessee this weekend. Losing Saturday night won't cost Vol head man Derek Dooley his job. The same can't be said for the Bulldogs' Mark Richt.

WHY TENNESSEE SENDS A MESSAGE

By Danny Parker

Does Georgia have more experience? Yes.

Are the Bulldogs more comfortable with their schemes on both sides of the football? You bet.

Do the visitors have more productive skill players on special teams? Definitely — and it's not even close.

So, why do the Vols take this one? Three reasons: 1. Overconfidence. 2. Tyler Bray. 3. Pass blocking.

It's one thing to believe in what you're doing. It's another to lean way too far to the side trying to show swagger.

Even though it's away from the friendly atmosphere of Samford Stadium, the Bulldogs won't shy away from taunting the Neyland Stadium crowd. That's mostly due to last season's 41-14 Georgia win.

Bray is quickly establishing himself as the most prolific Tennessee quarterback this century. Casey Clausen put up some spectacular numbers in 2001 but what Bray is doing erasing Peyton Manning from the record books rather consistently is most impressive.

That California style that Bray exudes keeps the signal-caller cool as a cat in and out of the huddle. That will play more of a role in his leading the offense as his career continues.

The sheer size of the Georgia offensive line is impressive at an average of 326.8 pounds per hog. However, unless it can firmly establish the running game, that weight will work against itself as Vol defensive ends such as Jacques Smith and Curt Maggitt sprint right pass the 'Dawg tackles.

All in all, Tennessee is tired of its temporary stay in the second tier of the SEC. With the parity in the Eastern Division, the opportunity to get to Atlanta in December is clear and present. Look for the Big Orange to take it one snap at a time but turn the corner starting Saturday night at 7.


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