Hyams on Game

Tennessee is facing its third must-win game of the young season Saturday against No. 4 Georgia. And it really is a must win.

Lose and your goals of winning the East Division and playing for the SEC Championship are over.

Lose and your goal of being a national contender is gone.

Lose and you've got to rebuild the psyche of a team whose hopes have been hammered well before Halloween.

Tennessee can't win the East Division if it loses to its two main East rivals - Florida and Georgia. A loss to Georgia could strip the Vols of motivation and could lead to a four-loss season for a team projected to finish in the top five.

The Vols have split their first two must-win games - losing at Florida and winning at LSU. Now they've got to figure out a way to beat a top 10 team at home for the first time since 1999.

Tennessee is battle tested. Georgia is not.

Tennessee is playing a third top 10 team in four weeks. Georgia hasn't played a team I would rank in the top 30, although Boise State was No. 18 in the preseason polls.

Georgia coach Mark Richt said that's a huge advantage for Tennessee. Georgia lost three impact defenders in David Pollack, Thomas Davis and Odell Thurman, but the Bulldogs are better on defense - 259 yards per game - than Florida. UT scored seven points on Florida.

``They lost three difference makers but they've got eight other difference makers returning,'' Vols offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said. ``They're really talented. They're not the trickiest defense in the world but they know what they're doing and they give you problems.''

Jim Donnan, former Georgia coach now ESPN analyst, expects a low scoring game.

``Without question, Georgia hasn't been challenged by a defense,'' Donnan said. ``They haven't played anybody anywhere near Tennessee. And I think both teams are looking some identity on offense.''

Richt is 16-2 in opposing stadiums and hasn't lost after an open date since 2001.

``They don't let a hostile crowd get in their craw,'' Donnan said. ``They've had good teams, a lot of guys playing on Sunday. They've done a good job winning close games. These kids believe they can play good on the road and that's a real testimony to coach Richt.''

Here are my six-pack of keys for the success for Tennessee:

* Contain Georgia quarterback D.J. Shockley. Unlike David Greene, Shockley can beat you with his legs. But the lingering question: Can Shockley be consistent throughout a season? UT has already played four mobile quarterbacks and beaten three. Richt admitted he second-guessed himself for not playing Shockley more against UT last season after he engineered a 63-yard touchdown drive to cut the score to 13-7 in the second quarter.

* Contain Georgia's tight ends, Leonard Pope and Martrez Milner. They have combined to average over 21 yards on 16 catches. The 6-7, 250-pound Pope averaged 19.3 yards on 25 catches last season.

* Contain Georgia running game. The Bulldogs have the best run game UT will face all season. The Vols haven't allowed an opponent to rush for 100 yards and they rank No. 4 in the nation against the run. UT must make Georgia one-dimensional on offense, forcing Shockley to win the game.

* Big plays on offense. Against a solid defense, it's hard to mount a 10-play drive. The Vols need some knockout punches, some 30-yard games - they have two this season. The receivers must play their best game of the season.

* Gerald Riggs needs a big game. Riggs had 102 hard-earned yards last season in a 19-14 upset in Athens. He's got to help UT move the chains and convert short-yardage situations. ``For us to win,'' said running backs coach Trooper Taylor, ``he's got to play well.'' That means a 100-yard effort.

* Protect Rick Clausen. Clausen is beat up and banged up. His lack of speed has been slowed down more by a strained Achilles. Without mobility, Clausen needs great protection from a healed up offensive line.


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