It's time for the 3-2-1 report. Three observations, two questions and a prediction as the Vols re-enter SEC play with a game against Georgia this Saturday.
Three things we learned in Saturday's win:
Jashon Robertson better get healthy – Tennessee's 135 rushing yards on Saturday is the lowest total of the year, as the Vols had 11 carries that were negative yards plays. The Vols greatly missed their senior center on Saturday. Butch Jones said Robertson should be healthy and ready to go on Saturday and it's a must that he is back. Tennessee is facing a Georgia team that's giving up less than 100 yards a game on the ground and is very physical up front. The Vols certainly need Robertson's presence in the middle.
Big plays are still a big concern on defense – The big play struggles have been well documented in the Bob Shoop era. And they showed up again on Saturday, as UMass had runs of 39 and 42 yards as well as a pass play of 36 yards. Georgia feasted on big plays Saturday night against Mississippi State. Tennessee must not give up the catastrophic plays.
Vols better prep for play-action pass – Vol fans didn't like him when he was here, but they remember that Jim Chaney loves to throw the ball and he loves the play action passing game. To stop Georgia's run game, committing extra people to the box is almost a necessity. Tennessee must be careful, particularly at the safety spot, to not let the ball get thrown over their head in the play-action passing game. The Bulldogs opened with a flea flicker Saturday night, preying on Mississippi State's commitment to stopping the run as Georgia hit scoring plays down the middle of 59 yards and 41 yards.
Two questions heading into Georgia week
1 – Are the Vols too predictable?
After scoring 84 points in the first two games, the Vol offense has been throttled the last two weeks scoring only 37 total points. Why? Execution for one. But the other question is are the Vols too predictable. In the last eight quarters, Tennessee has had 26 possessions and 19 of them have started with running plays. In the first halves of the last two weeks, 9 of 11 possessions have opened with a run.
2 – Can the Vol receivers beat press coverage?
Mississippi State threw for just 83 yards and 2 interceptions, as the Georgia defense was smothering all night long. State's receivers struggled to get seperation and quarterback Nick Fitzgerald was under pressure all evening. It's pretty simple, Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has complete trust in his cornerbacks to play man-to-man. Butch Jones has said that his receivers must do a better job against press-coverage. That's a must on Saturday against Georgia.
One prediction: Tennessee will show up on Saturday
Tennessee was bad on Saturday. They played poorly. There are concerns, questions, etc. But I bet the Vols will show up Saturday afternoon in Neyland Stadium. No one will be predicting a Vol win and I'm not saying it will be an upset. But I bet a different looking Tennessee team on Saturday.
I remember back in 2004, everyone said Tennessee would get destroyed in Athens. Georgia was coming off a 45-16 beating of LSU where they intercepted something like five passes. Tennessee was coming off a 24-point loss to Auburn, and the Vols beat the Dawgs. There are other examples like 2009, 2012, 2013.
The point is that this series has had some unusual games and that the Vols won't play as poorly next Saturday as they did this past Saturday.