Matchup: Georgia

When you think of Georgia coach Mark Richt, you think of offense. You think of scoring. You think of well conceived plays that produce results. But when you think of Richt, don't just focus on offense. It's defense that has helped the Bulldogs win two SEC Championships in the past four years and turn around the series against Tennessee.

Tennessee dominated Georgia in the 1990s. Fulmer went 8-0 against Georgia, averaging 33.6 points per game. The Vols scored at least 29 points in seven of those games, winning the other 22-3 during the 1998 national championship season.

But in the 2000s, Tennessee hasn't been nearly as productive. The Vols have scored 15.7 points per game in losing five of six to the Bulldogs. Four of the five defeats were to Richt. And only once against Richt has UT scored as many as 20 points.

In three of Richt's five-plus seasons, Georgia has allowed at least 30 points just three times – Auburn and West Virginia in 2005 and LSU in the 2003 SEC title game.

The goal of UT offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe is to score 30 points in each game. He has failed just once – in a 21-20 loss to Florida.

If UT scores 30 at Georgia on Saturday night, the Vols win. But reaching that mark won't be easy against the nation's leader in scoring defense (6.8 points per game).

While Georgia's defense has put up gaudy numbers this season, you can't get a true gauge of just how good the defense is. The Bulldogs haven't played against an offense ranked higher than 64th in Division 1-A and one opponent was a 1-AA team.

The combined record of the 1-A foes is 6-14. Colorado is still looking for its first win and Ole Miss is 1-4. Oddly, it is those two teams that led oddsmakers to install the Vols a field-goal favorite, even though the game is in Athens, Georgia is ranked higher and the Bulldogs have owned UT this decade.

Georgia trailed hapless Colorado 13-0 late in the third quarter before rallying to win and the Bulldogs had 66 total yards and zero points in the first half at Ole Miss.

Yes, Georgia is still undefeated, but the Bulldogs haven't played a top 50 team. Meanwhile, Tennessee has played two top 10 teams, routing one and losing to the other by one point.

Moreover, Tennessee's offense – ranked No. 31 in the nation -- is clicking like it did in 2001 while Georgia ranks 89th in the nation in offense. Georgia's defense is No. 6 while UT is No. 31.

Of course, you can discard all of those numbers when the teams tee it up at 7:45 p.m. on ESPN. It is then we will find out if UT being more battle tested has any merit. It is then we will find out if Georgia's defense is as good as Florida's. And it is then we will find out if the team with the better quarterback can beat the team with the better defense.

Two key numbers: UT must rush for at least 75 yards and hold Georgia under 100. The threat of the run will give Erik Ainge more time to throw and if the Bulldogs can't run, Richt's team is in trouble.

Here is a position-by-position breakdown:

Game #: 1122
Site: Athens
Date: Oct. 7
Conference: SECE
Coach Match-up:
For the Vols - Fulmer and for the Bulldogs - Richt



Georgia is averaging 4.1 yards per carry and has rushed for nine touchdowns, but the Bulldogs are eighth in the SEC in rushing. Center Nick Jones and tackle Daniel Inman are the two best linemen. UT is ninth in the SEC in rushing. The Vols have had two 200-yard games but had minus-11 against a stout Florida defense. Tackle Arron Sears is banged up. UT has allowed four sacks, Georgia six.


Joe Tereshinski is scheduled to start. He hasn't played in a month because of a bum ankle. Strong-armed freshman Matthew Stafford has thrown the most passes (75) and the most interceptions (3) and has the worst percentage (48). Ainge has completed 70 percent of his passes for 1,389 yards and leads the SEC in passing yards and total offense.


Kregg Lumpkin gets the start after cracking the 100-yard mark against Ole Miss. Danny Ware averages 5.6 yards per carry. Thomas Brown, who started the first four games, is averaging 2.9 yards for a team that is ninth in the SEC in rushing. UT is 10th in the SEC in rushing but LaMarcus Coker has had back-to-back 100-yard games. However, Coker has not carried the ball in a game of this magnitude. Arian Foster (ankle) should return after being injured against Air Force. Vols still haven't produced in short-yardage situations.


Bulldogs have been beset by dropped passes – at least 15 in three different games. Richt has changed his starters because of fumble fingers. Robert Meachem and Jayson Swain lead the nation with 955 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.



Georgia might have the best end tandem in the SEC in Quentin Moses and Charles Johnson, who leads the league in tackles for loss. The Bulldogs are better at end than Florida but not as good at tackle. Georgia's run defense is allowing 100 yards per game and 2.9 yards per carry. UT gives up 126.8 per game and 3.5 per carry.


Danny Verdun Wheeler moved to inside for the first time because of an injury to Jarvis Jackson and had eight tackles against Ole Miss. Jackson, Tony Taylor and Brandon Miller are solid. UT's Marvin Mitchell leads the SEC in tackles (10.4). Jerod Mayo is third in sacks.


Paul Oliver might be the best cover corner in the SEC. Safety Tra Battle is a veteran. UT is led by Jonathan Wade and Jonathan Hefney. Georgia gives up 20 fewer yards per game and a lower completion percentage, but that's against weaker competition.

S. TeamsCOMMENTSS. Teams

Brandon Coutu has made seven of eight field goals. Gordon Ely-Kelson is averaging 43.1 yards per punt. Mikey Henderson has returned one punt for a touchdown and should have a second. UT's James Wilhoit has made 14 of his last 15 field-goal attempts. Britton Colquitt is averaging 47.1 yards per punt. UT is horrible at returning kicks and punts. Georgia is averaging 35.4 yards per kick return and 18.6 per punt return. UT is averaging 14 yards per kick return and 6.8 per punt return.



Georgia is the higher ranked team and has won five of the last six against UT but is an underdog at home. That will fire up the Dawgs.


Tennessee 17, Georgia 16.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories