Knoxville, TN (SportsNetwork.com) - The sixth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs will try to build upon their outstanding win last weekend and remain undefeated in SEC play when they travel to Knoxville to tangle with the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday afternoon.
Georgia endured one of the most difficult first months of any team in the nation, and it emerged from it with a 3-1 record. After losing at Clemson on opening night, 38-35, the Bulldogs bounced back with wins over other nationally-ranked foes South Carolina (41-30) and most recently, LSU, 44-41, coming from behind in the final two minutes to pull out the home victory.
"In the moment of truth, we took care of business," Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. "You don't get many opportunities like that and have it come out the way it did."
"We've still got a long way to go, that's for sure," he continued. "We're not 100 percent solid in all areas. We've got to make some improvement. But I know we will keep fighting."
Like Georgia, Tennessee also has the misfortune of playing a treacherous schedule, as it is currently in the midst of playing five ranked teams in six games. After losing back-to-back road matchups against Oregon (59-14) and Florida (31-17), the Vols kicked off a three-game homestand last Saturday with a 31-24 win over South Alabama to improve to 3-2.
"We have to get a lot better," Tennessee head coach Butch Jones said. "I think we all know that. Our margin for error is very, very small. We have to be a team that overachieves."
Tennessee owns a slim edge over Georgia in the all-time series, 21-19-2, but the Bulldogs have won three straight meetings, including last season in Athens, 51-44.
As expected, Georgia has one of the nation's top offenses, putting up 41.2 ppg on 554.0 ypg (6th in FBS). The unit has showed remarkable consistency through four games, scoring at least 38 points each time out.
Aaron Murray's Heisman campaign has gotten off to a great start, as the senior has completed greater than 68 percent of his passes for 1,338 yards, accounting for 14 touchdowns (three rushing) while throwing just three interceptions. Against LSU last week, Murray had five touchdowns, including the game-winner to Justin Scott-Wesley in the final two minutes.
"Aaron was phenomenal," Richt said. "He kept answering every score with another great play or throw. He played so well."
Todd Gurley has been outstanding out of the backfield with 450 yards and four scores, but he is listed as questionable for this contest after suffering an ankle injury against LSU. Luckily for UGA, it has a reliable option to fall back on in Keith Marshall (213 rushing, 111 receiving, two TDs).
Six different receivers have amassed at least 100 receiving yards through four games, with Chris Conley (254 yards, two TDs) and Scott-Wesley (289 yards, two TDs) serving as the primary beneficiaries of Murray's exploits.
Defensively, the Bulldogs have disappointed in a big way, ranking last in the SEC in allowing 32.5 ppg, although a big reason for that can be attributed to their difficult schedule.
The unit has managed to forced just four turnovers, with Tray Matthews recording the lone interception. Ramik Wilson has a team-high 37 tackles, while Leonard Floyd wreaks havoc in the backfield with 4.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks and eight QB hurries.
Tennessee's offense has been solid this season, scoring 31.8 ppg, and that number shoots up to 42.7 ppg when playing in Knoxville. The yardage output, on the other hand has been lackluster at best, the club ranking last in the SEC with just 369.4 ypg.
The strength of the unit is clearly in the backfield, with Rajion Neal (468 yards, five TDs) and Marlin Lane (280 yards, four TDs) combining for nearly 150 rushing yards per game, although Lane's status for this game is questionable due to a leg injury.
Justin Worley has earned the majority of the work under center, and while he has thrown eight touchdown passes, he's completing just 56 percent of his attempts and has been picked off six times. Nathan Peterman has also gotten some snaps, but he hasn't fared any better (10-of-23, 45 yards, zero TDs, two INTs).
Marquez North is the most consistent option at receiver with 14 receptions for 132 yards, while Alton Howard has 11 catches with team-highs in both yards (148) and touchdowns (two).
Even with a 59-point dud against Oregon a few weeks back, Tennessee's defense has still pieced together respectable numbers, surrendering less than 27 points per game on 413.0 ypg, although it has allowed opponents to convert 45 percent of its third-down attempts. The Vols have created 15 turnovers, which is second-most in the nation behind only Middle Tennessee.
Not only does Brian Randolph lead the team in tackles with 37, but he also has three interceptions. A.J. Johnson had racked up 35 stops and 3.0 TFL, Marlon Walls and Corey Miller have two sacks a piece, and Brent Brewer has picked off a pair of passes.