[title_box title=”Tennessee vs. Georgia Matchup: Chubb vs. The World”]
The Georgia Bulldogs travel to Rocky Top this week to face the Tennessee Volunteers in a Southeastern Conference showdown that looks to be one for the ages.
Georgia is coming off its first loss of the year to Alabama where the Crimson Tide dominated almost every aspect of the game. It was the first game the Crimson Tide were the underdog in since the 2009 SEC championship game, and they came out and showed why they should have kept their streak of being favored going, winning 38-10.
Tennessee was a major disappointment yet again, blowing its third double-digit lead of the year, this time against Arkansas. The Vols looked to have all the momentum in the world after Evan Berry returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, but just could not get it going after their first offensive drive, scoring only six more points in the last three-and-a-half quarters.
There are going to be many big position battles this week when the Bulldogs and Vols meet. Among those: Greyson Lambert and Georgia’s wide receivers against Tennessee’s secondary, Georgia’s special teams trying to contain Berry but none are bigger than Nick Chubb against Tennessee’s front seven defenders.
Chubb is the second leading rusher in the SEC with 745 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground plus one receiving touchdown to bring his touchdown total to eight. The only person above him is the absolute monster (even calling him that is an understatement) that is Leonard Fournette.
As a true freshman, Chubb put up some astonishing numbers. Many people knew he would be a force to be reckoned with, but not many saw him rushing for over 1500 yards and racking up 16 total touchdowns behind Todd Gurley. However, when Gurley went out with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in mid-November last year, it set the stage for Chubb to capture the minds of SEC fans.
And boy, did he capture them. He did not have the hottest of starts, but still managed a very respectable 224 yards and two rushing touchdowns in his first five games before exploding against Missouri. In that game alone, Chubb rushed for 143 yards and one touchdown and caught four passes for an added 31 yards. The next week, he dominated Arkansas, breaking 200 rushing yards for the first time in his career.
Since the game against Mizzou, Chubb has not had a game with less than 100 rushing yards. This past week, he wrote his name down in the Georgia history books yet again after breaking Herschel Walker’s record of consecutive games rushing for 100 or more yards. He piled up 146 yards against Alabama for his 13th straight in the streak, and fortunately for Georgia fans, he does not show signs of stopping any time soon.
On the other side of the ball, Tennessee’s front seven has not looked quite as elite as may thought it would this season. The Vols’ defense is near the bottom of the league in total rushing yards, having given up 858 yards. To give the Big Orange at least a little credit, however, they have faced Alex Collins of Arkansas (who had over 1000 yards last season) and Samaje Perine of Oklahoma (who holds the all-time single-game rushing record in the NCAA with 427 yards against Kansas last year). Collins alone had more yards against Tennessee than Texas’ entire team did in the Longhorns’ bowl game this past season.
So, if that is the case, why is this such a big matchup if Nick Chubb looks like he will just run all over the entire state of Tennessee? Well, here’s a couple pretty big reasons (no pun intended).
First off, the duo of freshmen big men Kahlil McKenzie and Shy Tuttle. Both are coming off of their best game of the season with five tackles a piece against Arkansas. That may not seem like a lot, but when you consider the fact that both are true freshmen who have not had much playing time yet factor in some certain intangibles, it gives Vol fans a rare point of optimism moving forward in the season.
Possibly the biggest reason these two can be a difference maker in the game is because of their size. McKenzie and Tuttle combine to weigh a whopping 655 pounds. That amount of mass in the center of the field is sure to slow even the best of running backs down. Even with the best offensive line in the country, Tennessee can throw Derek Barnett, Darrin Kirkland Jr., and Jalen Reeves-Maybin into the mix, and that is a pretty daunting force to stop.
Barnett had quite an impressive freshman campaign, ending the season with 10 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss, both of which are records for a UT true freshman. He was one of the most feared pass rushers coming into the 2015 season, and he has not had nearly the amount of production he had last year, only garnering one sack so far this year. However, this time last year is when he really burst onto the scene, so watch out for number nine from here on out.
With the absence of Curt Maggitt, a few new faces that have been put into action for the Vols lately. With Maggitt playing a hybrid defensive end/linebacker role, that makes for two big, unexpected shoes to fill . So far, however, LaTroy Lewis and Chris Weatherd have stepped up big in those positions, respectively. Along with Kirkland Jr. and Reeves-Maybin, the linebacker position is starting to get to where it needs to be. If Kirkland Jr. can protect the middle of the field, Tennessee just might pull off the upset that they have been so close to doing the past few years.
The bottom line is this: Chubb will have another great game. That is basically a given. There are not many scenarios where he does not rush for over 100 yards yet again. The key to a Tennessee win, however, is containing Chubb as best as they can and forcing Greyson Lambert to throw the ball more often. If the Vols’ front seven can step up, then maybe, just maybe, they can finally knock off the Bulldogs.
The game can be seen on television at 3:30 p.m. on CBS.
Edited by Nathan Odom
Matt is a sophomore journalism and electronic media major at the University of Tennessee. He enjoys watching any and all sports, and is an active member in the Pride of the Southland Marching Band. Follow him on twitter @mattraymond271