Videos by OutKick
After another dominating win on Saturday, Georgia will now start preparing for an offense that’s hard to simulate in practice. The Dawgs will head to Knoxville on Saturday to face a high-tempo Tennessee offense that has caused problems for multiple teams this season. This Georgia team has played lights out on defense this year, giving up only five touchdowns total. But this weekend will bring up a completely different test.
It’s one thing for the Dawgs to play teams like Auburn, Kentucky and Arkansas, who all run at different types of speed on offense, but Tennessee is a different animal and Kirby Smart knows it. Yes, Georgia has had success against every team they’ve faced this season, but it will be interesting to see how fast they can play against the Vols, as Kirby Smart pointed out.
“They’re up tempo, fast paced and that’s really hard to prepare for. Everybody tries to prepare in the off-season, but it’s so hard to simulate when you talk to people going against it, it makes it tremendously tough. Our guys are excited for the opportunity, playing on the road in the SEC is one of the toughest things there is to do in the country, and we’ll get to go to a really tough environment and play football against these guys. Their quarterback is playing tremendously and their defense has gotten better and better each week.”
The Vols have made it difficult for defenses to guard every eligible receiver on the field, and Josh Heupel has done a good job of scheming. But Georgia is a different animal, especially with the pressure they can apply with their defensive line. The Dawgs do a fantastic job at filling the gaps, which will be a problem for the Vols’ rushing attack. Just ask the other teams Georgia has faced, and they will tell you the same thing.
But Kirby Smart noted on Monday that this Tennessee offense is the most creative he’s seen, especially with how fast Josh Heupel likes to play.
“I think it’s the [fastest] in the country, when you look at it and talk to people, because everybody talks across the country and tries to defend it. It’s so fast you can’t really simulate it in your practices, so you have to try and find a creative way to practice for it. It’s so different than the triple option. I’m not trying to compare it to that, but it’s so different that it’s hard to prepare for. You can’t simulate it with your team unless you do it. We don’t do that as well as they do it, so it makes it tough to prepare for. Your players really have to buy in, they have to know it’s important to play that way against that tempo and you’ve got to work really hard at it. The challenge will be there this week for offense, defense and special teams, because what they do doesn’t just affect the defense, it affects your offense and special teams.”
One player who isn’t lost on Kirby Smart is Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker and his ability to scramble for ten and twenty yard gains. This is an aspect of the Georgia defense that Kirby wants to fix, noting that missed tackles lead to success from quarterbacks who use their mobility this season. It will be Hooker’s job to try and force Georgia to contain the boundaries, while also preventing the big plays through the middle. But, in the eyes of Smart, it all goes back to fundamentals.
“Hendon Hooker is a tremendous athlete. He’s hard to tackle. He’s big, physical, strong arm. Saturday’s miscues (against Missouri) had a lot to do with execution. Tackling. We missed tackles, did not tackle well. Probably our poorest game in terms of tackling. Assigned, doing your gap football. We didn’t do that. There were a couple of quarterback runs that a guy, instead of going in his gap went in somebody else’s gap.”
Another point of emphasis for the Georgia defense will be stopping the long-yardage pass plays that Tennessee has grown accustomed to executing. Against Kentucky, the Vols had two touchdown plays go for over 70 yards. In conference games, Tennessee has produced 21 plays that have been for 80 yards, which can be attributed to the Vols’ success at getting open in space. This will be key for the Georgia defense to stop.
“They’ve got an extremely good group of wideouts. They’re extremely physical, big, size, speed. They are really fast on tape. We know the players they are running past. They are good football players that they are running past, making explosive plays. They’ve made a lot of plays down the field. They would’ve had more of these earlier, but they overthrew some early in the season or they just missed them. They’ve been hitting on all cylinders, and they have been extremely explosive with what they have done.”
The Vols haven’t faced a defense like this, and it will show on Saturday. Georgia currently ranks second in the country in total defense, giving up only 3.80 yards per play and 231 yards per game. So, to say this will be a challenge unlike any other this season for Tennessee would be an understatement. It might take them a minute to get adjusted, but this Georgia defense has proven all season they can adapt.
On Saturday, Tennessee will just try to make it a little harder on them. But, as we’ve seen through 75% of the season, there aren’t many things that can rattle this Georgia defense.
This matchup should be interesting, to say the least.