Tennessee will host No. 7 Georgia on Saturday afternoon. Vols head football coach Butch Jones looks for his second straight win over Kirby Smart and third straight over the Bulldogs. We’re here to get you ready for another edition of one of the SEC’s best rivalries. Here’s what you need to know about the Georgia Bulldogs ahead of Saturday.
Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason has missed the past three games with a strained ligament and Smart has indicated his return will be soon. However, freshman Jake Fromm has caught the attention of the staff and opponents with his composed play at quarterback. Fromm has tallied 650 yards and seven touchdowns through his first four games with Georgia. He has also averaged nearly 10 yards-per-play and hit the 200-yard passing mark for the first time against Mississippi State last week. The Bulldogs’ success running the ball has eased some pressure on Fromm, as he has only thrown over 15 passes in a game once.
Georgia’s backfield has been the heart-and-soul of their offense, and is one of the best in the conference. Nick Chubb is on track to run for his third 1000-yard season for the Bulldogs, having logged 371 yards and six touchdowns on the ground through four games. Sony Michele remains one of the most electric backs in the SEC, but his recent injuries have slowed his impact in 2017. Still, Michele and D’Andre Swift have combined for nearly 400 yards and three touchdowns to match Chubb. The stable of gifted backs have been imperative to Fromm’s early success as a freshman.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
The receivers and tight ends haven’t seen much action so far in 2017, as they’ve caught just 45 passes to this point. Terry Godwin has returned to be Fromm’s favorite target, with eight receptions for 214 yards and four touchdowns. Godwin has averaged 27 yards-per-catch and has paired with Javon Wims to make a sure-handed receiving combo. Wims has also recorded eight catches for 164 yards and a touchdown so far this season. The most underappreciated pass-catcher on the roster is tight end Isaac Nauta, who has just four catches for 74 yards on the year. Nauta was third in receiving for Georgia in 2016 and arguably has the best hands on the team.
The most improved corps of the Bulldogs team has easily been the offensive line. Through four games the offensive line has given up just three sacks and five quarterback hurries. The line’s success has allowed Chubb and the talented group of running backs to have a field day. Fromm has also been visibly poised behind the stout offensive line. Georgia’s retuning linemen – Lamont Galliard, Kendall Baker and Isaiah Wynn – have noticeably improved. New linemen Andrew Thomas and Soloman Kindley have meshed with the veterans to form the first solid offensive line under Kirby Smart.
The bulldogs have one of the best front seven’s in the SEC and in all of college football. Georgia ranks 16th in the nation in rush defense having only allowed three yards-per-carry on the ground. They also have held the past four opponents to an average of under 100 yards rushing. Linebackers Roquan Smith and Lorenzo Carter have been the leaders of the Bulldogs front seven with a combined 23 tackles, 4.5 tackles-for-loss, four sacks and two forced-fumbles so far this season. Defensive tackle Trenton Thompson has held down the defensive line for Georgia.
Georgia’s secondary has statistically been one of the most efficient in the nation in 2017. The Bulldogs’ passing defense ranks 27th in the nation in passing yards allowed per game. They average giving up just 172 passing yards per game and have given up just two passing touchdowns all year. Safety J.R. Reed is the heart of the Georgia secondary with 15 tackles, two tackles-for-loss, one sack and a forced-fumble this season. Defensive backs Aaron Davis, Tyrique McGee and Dominick Sanders have all tallied 10 tackles a piece and have combined for four passes defended. The Bulldogs secondary has terrorized quarterbacks through four games, so don’t expect it to stop against a struggling Tennessee pass offense.
Not only does Georgia have one of the most dangerous defenses in the SEC, but they have a special teams corps to match it. Return man Mecole Hardman is dangerous with four kicks returned for a total of 112 yards and an average of 28 yards-per-attempt. Place kicker Rodrigo Blankenship has proven his consistency by hitting 4-of-5 field goal attempts this season with a long of 49-yards.
Columbia transfer punter Cameron Nizialek has been magnificent for the Bulldogs in 2017 with nearly 900 yards punting for an average of 45 yards-per-punt. Kirby Smart has placed an emphasis on special teams in his young tenure at Georgia, and it’s beginning to show.
Edited by Ben McKee
Feature image courtesy of UT Sports