Home field disadvantage

To beat Georgia on Saturday, what's the key for Tennessee? Is it running the ball? Run defense? Special teams?

Maybe none of the above.

The key might be pretending Neyland Stadium is in Athens, Ga.

The road team has won four straight and five of the past six games in this bizarre series. And nobody seems to know why.

Tennessee rallied from a 24-7 deficit to win 51-33 at Sanford Stadium last year. Georgia won 27-14 the season before in Knoxville. In 2004, the Vols prevailed 19-14 en route to the East Division championship. In 2003, Georgia blew open a close first-half game for a 41-14 win.

Georgia won in Athens in 2002 and in Knoxville in 2001.

Georgia's 2001 victory at Neyland turned the series around. Tennessee had won nine in a row over the Bulldogs before Mark Richt scored a come-from-behind 26-24 win after the Vols took the lead with less than a minute left.

It was UT's only SEC loss that season. It was Richt's first big win.

Richt said the key to winning on the road is a poised quarterback, a sound defense and good breaks.

Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe said there are fewer distractions for a team when it goes on the road.

Tennessee defensive line coach Dan Brooks isn't sure what the deal is.

``I'm not very smart when it comes to that because I have no idea,'' Brooks said. ``If anybody knew the answer to that question, they can bottle it up.''


Tennessee's pass protection has been outstanding this season.

Quarterback Erik Ainge has been sacked just once this season and been pressured only five times. He has thrown 160 consecutive passes without being sacked.

UT's two sacks allowed – one was on Jonathan Crompton – is tied for fewest in the nation.

Offensive line coach Greg Adkins said play calling, pass protection schemes, moving pockets, and Ainge's ability to get rid of the ball quickly are factors in the low sack total.

It's also apparent that UT's offensive line is better at pass protection than run blocking. That's good news and bad news. The good news is, it makes for a more efficient passing team. The bad news is, it makes for a less efficient running game.

And Tennessee is at its best when it can run the ball.

Given a choice, Tennessee would be better off with a good run-blocking line and an average pass-blocking line than vice versa.

When Tennessee is forced to throw a lot, it usually loses. The Vols have won four of 13 games when throwing at least 45 passes.

But when Tennessee runs well, it usually wins.

The Florida series is a great example. The team that has rushed for the most yards has won 16 of the last 18 games between UT and Florida.

So while it's great to have great pass protection, it's better in UT's system to have a good running game.


Tennessee fans hoping to watch the UT-Mississippi State game Oct. 13 on pay-per-view might get their wish.

Steve Early of the Vol Network said he is negotiating with Mississippi State officials to get the game televised in the Tennessee market. The Vol Network would pay MSU a fee and would need approval from CBS for a one-time exception to have a game shown overlapping the CBS window of 3:30 to 7 p.m.

The UT-Mississippi State is set for 2:30 ET.

If the UT-Mississippi State game is carried on pay-per-view, then the UT-Louisiana-Lafayette game (Nov. 3 at 4 p.m.) will not be on any television anywhere, Early said.

It would be possible to have the UT-Louisiana-Lafayette game on pay-per-view if UT moved the game to around noon, but athletic director Mike Hamilton doesn't want to do that because it is a homecoming game.

``We think we're doing a greater service to the UT fans if we carry the Mississippi State game as opposed to Louisiana-Lafayette,'' Early said.

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