Devil's Advocate

Welcome to Devil's Advocate — Inside Tennessee's version of punch/counter punch — where each week analysts Randy Moore and Jeffery Stewart choose sides and make their cases for our readers' regular amusement and occasional edification.



I could list all of the reasons Georgia should beat Tennessee this Saturday but my fingers would get sore from typing, so I'll just touch on the major points:

• The Bulldogs have better weapons. Many NFL scouts rate Matthew Stafford the No. 1 quarterback in college football and Knowshon Moreno the No. 1 running back in college football. A.J. Green, though only a freshman, might be the SEC's most talented wide receiver. All are difference-makers. If Tennessee's offense has a difference-maker he must not be playing this fall.

• The Bulldogs have better balance. When Tennessee loads up to stop Moreno, Stafford will throw 40-yard bombs to Green. When Vol safeties back up to stop the bomb, Moreno will slice through UT's front seven like a Ginsu knife through an overripe orange.

* The Bulldogs have better blocking. Georgia averages 424.8 yards and 34.4 points per game to Tennessee's 317.6 and 18.0. That kind of disparity suggests the big uglies upfront are playing a lot better for Team A than they are for Team B.

• The Bulldogs have more at stake. Georgia, at 4-1, still has a shot at winning SEC and national championships. Tennessee, at 2-3, is hoping to beat Vanderbilt for the state championship.

• The Bulldogs have more motivation. Georgia is looking to rebound from a 41-30 drubbing at the hands of Alabama on Sept. 27 and looking to avenge a 35-14 drubbing at the hands of Tennessee last season.

• The Bulldogs have the better kicking game. Georgia's Blair Walsh is hitting 75 percent of his field-goal tries with a long of 52. Daniel Lincoln is hitting 55.6 percent with a long of 47. Georgia's Brian Mimbs has punted 19 times for a 41.0-yard average this fall. Britton Colquitt has not punted all season. The Dawgs average a mind-boggling 21.7 yards on punt returns. The Vols have had two punts blocked and one returned for a touchdown through their first five games.

• The Bulldogs are strongest where the Vols are weakest. Georgia ranks No. 2 among SEC teams in third-down efficiency, converting 46.7 percent of the time. Tennessee ranks 11th in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert 39.7 percent of the time.

• The Bulldogs are weakest in an area the Vols cannot exploit. Georgia is 10th among SEC teams in pass-defense efficiency but the Vols are dead last among the 12 conference teams in pass efficiency.

• The Bulldogs have the home-field advantage. Sure, Tennessee won at Sanford Stadium in 2004 and 2006 but, given all of the above, do you really think the Vols can make it three in a row?



Saturday's Tennessee-Georgia football game will be played between the hedges in Sanford Stadium, but it will be decided between the tackles and between the ears of its participants.

The fact Tennessee has won the last two trips to Georgia in 2004, 19-14, and in 2006, 53-31, as well as the meeting in Knoxville in 2007, 35-14. That's an average margin of victory of 18 points and the Vols were underdogs in two of those games including a double-digit 12-point dog in 2004.

That contest has parallels to this one because Tennessee was coming off a 34-10 home loss to Auburn while true freshman quarterback Eric Ainge was starting his first game on the road in the SEC. On the other hand No. 3 ranked Georgia was fresh off a 45-16 thumping over No. 13 LSU.

The fact the Vols were able to come from looking so hapless against Auburn at home to beating the Bulldogs on the same field they had dominated LSU the week before provides hope Tennessee may be able to overcome the odds once again and salvage their season with a spectacular upset in enemy territory.

The formula for such a victory is right there in the archives inside the folder marked: Tennessee at Georgia circa 2004. The plan was simple. Take pressure off the inexperienced signal caller by relying heavily on the running game, kicking game and defense. Like most top caliber SEC defenses built on the best speed available on the recruiting market, Georgia was too fast to consistently beat outside so the Vols went to more quick hitters. They essentially neutralized the Dawgs speed by running right at them. Their success set up some play-action opportunities which kept Georgia's defenders honest and kept the pass rush at bay.

In the process they ate up a lot of clock and maintained favorable field position which they exploited with a kicking game that kept the Bulldogs backed up near their own goal line and forced them to go the long way against a defense that was active and aggressive. Even though the game was close the pace put the crowd into a hypnotic state. The Vols added a plus-two turnover advantage to seal the upset.

The week off following a disappointing home loss to Alabama should have the Bulldogs angry and hungry. The Vols have been in their cross hairs for two weeks now, but the Vols may have also been in their heads and that's better than having great field position.

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