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Game Scout: Georgia at Tennessee

The SportsXchange

KICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET

GAMEDATE: 10/5/13

SITE: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tenn.

TV: CBS

SERIES: Tennessee is 21-19-2 against Georgia but hasn't beaten its divisional foe since 2009, during Lane Kiffin's sole year in Knoxville.

AP RANKINGS: Georgia, No. 6; Tennessee unranked

KEYS TO THE GAME

Coach Mark Richt expected his defense to endure growing pains this season.

The offense has more than picked up the slack. After passing another big test with a 44-41 win over LSU, Georgia (3-1, 2-0 SEC) will try to make progress defensively Saturday at Tennessee.

"Every game's gonna be a barnburner 'til we really get more stout on defense and continue to get our special teams in order," Richt said.

Georgia ranks last in the SEC in scoring defense, giving up 32.5 points per game.

"Somewhere down the line, it's gonna catch up to us if we continue to give up big points like that," Georgia freshman cornerback Brendan Langley said.

Don't expect that to come Saturday at Tennessee. The Volunteers (3-2, 0-1 SEC) are rebuilding under first-year coach Butch Jones. Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray should be able to feast on Tennessee's defense, which gives up 249.8 yards per game.

Richt is concerned about Tennessee's deep, experienced line.

"This offensive line is the best I've seen this year," Richt said. "I do think they're the class of the league and maybe the country."

After a loss to start the season at Clemson, Georgia can't afford any more letdowns in order to reach its goal of returning to the SEC title game. Murray doesn't expect a letdown to happen against the Vols.

"We have a lot of momentum," Murray said. "I think the biggest thing is that we have great leadership, and our leaders are really going to have to step up right now and make sure guys are staying focused. We've been practicing our tails off, just getting after it, working and training hard, staying very focused in meetings and on the field. I think that's why we've been successful, because we are putting the work in right now."

It has been almost four full years since Tennessee last defeated a nationally ranked opponent, a losing streak that now encompasses 18 games.

That streak looms large in the collective consciousness of Vol Nation, and first-year coach Butch Jones is pulling out all the stops to try to end that streak.

Whether it's his decision to have the Vols wear their new "Smokey Gray" alternate uniforms or his willingness to continue to keep competition open to determine the best players at various positions, Tennessee's home game against No. 6 Georgia this Saturday has a make-or-break feel to it.

Georgia's arrival signals the biggest game of the season. It's taking place on CBS in the signature time slot of the week in the SEC television schedule.

It is that coveted chance for Tennessee to end its track record of futility against ranked foes, a stretch that dates back to the brief one-year tenure of Lane Kiffin at Rocky Top.

Beating the Bulldogs would be huge for Tennessee, which is 3-2 but dealing with some loud grumbles from the fan base after escaping with a 31-24 win over South Alabama last week in a game in which the Jaguars scored 17 unanswered points in the second half.

The Vols' quarterback position has been under particular scrutiny. With Justin Worley battling some inconsistency, many fans are clamoring for Tennessee to give one of its two freshmen -- Riley Ferguson or Josh Dobbs -- a shot.

Although the Vols already have played 14 true freshmen this season, don't expect to see a rookie under center as long as Worley remains healthy.

"As much as everyone wants to see them, it's my job and it's my responsibility to them and to their parents and to our football program to not put them, if given that luxury, until they're ready," Jones said. "In our professional opinion right now they haven't been ready. Will that change this week? It may change based on how they handle practice."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Bulldogs

--QB Aaron Murray continues to put up big numbers. Murray was named SEC player of the week after completing 20 of 34 passes for 298 yards and four touchdowns. Murray also added a rushing TD against the Tigers. Murray leads the SEC in passing at 334.5 yards per game, with 11 TDs and three interceptions.

--WR Justin Scott-Wesley is emerging as a favorite target for Murray. Scott-Wesley caught Georgia's go-ahead touchdown pass, a 25-yarder, in the Bulldogs' 44-41 win over LSU. Scott-Wesley has a team-high 289 yards receiving and two TDs.

--K Marshall Morgan has made the most of his second chance. Suspended the first two games of the season because of a summer BUI arrest, Morgan has made 4 of 5 field goal attempts, including a big 55-yarder last Saturday at LSU that helped Morgan earn SEC special teams player of the week honors. The sophomore will be counted on to make more clutch kicks as the season progresses.

--S Josh Harvey-Clemons is starting to show signs of the five-star potential he displayed coming out of high school. Harvey-Clemons had a team-high 15 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss. Harvey-Clemons is third on the team with 27 tackles, which includes 2.5 for loss, and he has one forced fumble.

Volunteers

--RB Rajion Neal was a real bright spot against South Alabama, running for a personal-best 169 yards in the Vols' 31-24 win and topping the century mark for the second time this season. Coach Butch Jones praised Neal for his decisive running, as well as his ability to accelerate and make defenders miss.

--QB Justin Worley still hasn't found his groove throwing the football, completing just 56 percent of his passes through four games. Worley threw three interceptions against South Alabama and was booed late in the game as Tennessee preserved its win.

--DE Corey Miller made four tackles and had a sack against South Alabama in what Jones called "his best, most complete game since we have been here." Impressive, considering that Miller's future with the Vols was once in doubt due to academic issues.
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