Devil's Advocate

Welcome to Devil's Advocate — Inside Tennessee's version of point/counterpoint — where each week analysts Randy Moore and Jeffery Stewart take opposite sides of the field to make their case for our readers' regular amusement and occasional edification.

Vols on road to success

By Randy Moore

The Big Orange Express has traveled a bumpy road to date, skidding a bit against Air Force and crashing against Florida. But now it's time to shift gears and step on the GAS.

GAS is Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina. Each game is a must-win situation for Tennessee (4-1 overall, 0-1 SEC), which will either step on the GAS or run out of GAS in its next three games. Knowing this, the Big Orange Express will start its stretch drive with a victory lap Saturday night in Athens.

Here's why:

• Georgia's 2006 offense is a lot like Tennessee's 2005 offense. The quarterback play is erratic and touchdowns are scarce. The Dawgs are unbeaten but they scored just 14 points against Ole Miss last week and 14 against winless Colorado the week before. That won't be enough against a high-powered Tennessee offense that is averaging 32 points per game.

• The strength of Tennessee's offense is its passing attack. The weakness of Georgia's defense is its secondary, which lost three All-SEC picks from 2005. Unless the Vols insist on "pounding the rock" they'll move the ball all night long.

• Vol head coach Phillip Fulmer feels at home in Athens. He has a career record of 5-2 there.

• Vol quarterback Erik Ainge is comfortable in Athens, as well. As a freshman he guided the Vols to a 19-14 upset of a third-ranked Georgia team in 2004.

• Tennessee rolls into Athens with a ton of confidence, having manhandled Marshall (33-7) and Memphis (41-7) in its last two games. Georgia has to be entertaining some doubts coming off a 14-13 defeat of Colorado and a 14-9 squeaker against Ole Miss.

• The Vols have more motivation, too. They haven't won an SEC title since 1998, and they're determined to rectify that situation.

• Georgia's 5-0 record is deceiving. The Dawgs' first five opponents have won just 29 percent of their games this fall. Conversely, Tennessee already has faced two excellent teams, Cal and Florida.

• It's true that the Dawgs have two punt returns for touchdowns this fall and also are dangerous on kickoff returns. Returns are hard to come by, though, when Britton Colquitt is getting four-second hang time on his punts and James Wilhoit is booming his kickoffs seven yards deep into the end zone.

Bottom line: Once the Big Orange Express kicks into overdrive, the Bulldogs are going to be run over.

Beware of Dawgs

By: Jeffery Stewart

It's easy to look at Georgia's last two games and Tennessee's last two games and figure the Vols have all the momentum, while the Dogs are lucky to be unbeaten.

It's easy to see how Erik Ainge led the Vols to a victory in Athens as a true freshman and predict an even better showing as a junior. It's just as easy to see UGA play musical quarterbacks with a trio of inexperienced players and conclude they don't have a QB capable of leading them to victory over UT.

These are all perfectly reasonable conclusions drawn from accurate data, but that doesn't make them correct. In fact, you could apply the same logic to the 2004 game between Tennessee and Georgia and surmise that the Vols had no chance.

Tennessee went into that contest one week after losing to Auburn 34-10, as Ainge threw four interceptions and lost a fumble. Conversely, Georgia was coming off a victory in which it destroyed defending co-national champion LSU 45-16.

The Bulldogs were led by senior signal caller David Greene who was noted for his poise under pressure and ability to dissect defenses. You might recall that it was Greene who led a comeback victory over the Vols in 2001 as a freshman. It was the only regular season defeat UT would suffer that year.

The point is that recent results aren't always a reliable barometer of how a team might perform. In truth if a team gets too satisfied with the way it is playing it becomes ripe for an upset. Just as a team that is embarrassed is just as likely to play with outstanding effort in an attempt to redeem itself.

Georgia hasn't been beaten this season but a couple of close calls against low caliber opponents like Colorado and Ole Miss has Bulldog fans barking. A loss between the hedges to Tennessee will have them growling and make life in Athens unbearable until UGA beats a quality opponent. That's powerful incentive.

Here's some other points that point to a Georgia win Saturday.

• Georgia's Mark Richt, who is in his sixth season as a head coach, is 4-1 in head-to-head match-ups against Phillip Fulmer.

• Under Richt's direction, the Bulldogs have only lost twice in Athens since 2001. The first was the 19-14 setback to Tennessee in 2004, and a 31-30 loss to Auburn in 2005. During that span Georgia is 12-2 when hosting SEC foes. • Although the Bulldogs haven't settled on a quarterback it doesn't mean they don't have one. Matthew Stafford was rated No. 2 among the nation's high school QB prospects, Joe Cox was rated No. 8, Joe Tereshinski was No. 21 and Blake Barnes was No. 19.

• Georgia is No. 2 in the SEC in total defense, allowing only 233 yards per game. Just like good pitching will usually prevail against good hitting, good defense will normally stop good offenses.

• With all the success Erik Ainge has enjoyed this year he has only faced consistent pressure from Florida. The Bulldogs can mount a pass rush with their down linemen and they are excellent at disguising blitzes, especially from the edge. UT hasn't picked up blitzes well this season.

• Turnovers have played a significant role in this series. UT has a minus-3 turnover ratio for the season with only one fumble recovery in five games.

• The key to UT's victory in Athens in 1994 was the ground game which allowed the Vols to control the ball, field position and the clock. Tennessee ranks ninth in the SEC in rushing this season with 133 yards per game.

The Vols are favored in this game and go into Athens with a load of confidence. They would be well advised to remember that the most painful bite is the one you never see coming.

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