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Texas A&M Football

SEC Round-Up: Time to find out if the Tennessee Volunteers are indeed 'back'

October 8, 2020
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Rocky Top hit rock bottom on Aug. 31, 2019.

On that day, the once-proud Tennessee Volunteers suffered the embarrassment of a 38-30 loss to Georgia State.

That’s not Georgia. That’s Georgia State, a Sun Belt Conference member who would go on to lose to the likes of Western Michigan, Texas State, Louisiana-Monroe and Georgia Southern.

The only positive about hitting rock bottom: There is nowhere to go but up. The Volunteers began climbing back from that point on.

The next week, they lost to BYU, but at least took the Cougars to overtime. A few weeks later, the Vols beat Mississippi State. Two weeks after that, they beat South Carolina.

Tennessee hasn’t lost since.

Dating back to that South Carolina victory last season, Tennessee has posted eight consecutive victories.

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Georgia State’s victory at Neyland Stadium in 2019 was rock bottom for the Vols.

It’s such a dramatic turn-around that if the Vols wore a different shade of orange, there would be claims that UT is baaaaack.

There is still some doubt.

The eight-game winning streak looks good but might be deceiving.

Five of the victories have come over teams without a winning record. One was over a Conference-USA team (UAB). Kentucky didn’t have a quarterback. Indiana choked away a late lead in the Gator Bowl.

Tennessee can validate its resurgence — and prove it really is baaaack — by extending its win streak to nine games on Saturday when the Volunteers face Georgia in Athens.

Georgia is ranked third in the nation and has dominated the SEC East for the last three years. The Bulldogs have won three straight over Tennessee, with all three victories coming by at least four touchdowns.

This weekend’s game figures to be much more competitive.

Georgia used its running game to overwhelm Tennessee in those recent contests. This year’s Volunteer defense appears much more sound against the run.

Perhaps even more important, Tennessee’s offensive line is much better now. In the previous three games against Georgia, the Volunteers have rushed for 70, 66 and 62 yards.

Currently, Tennessee is second in the SEC in rushing. Georgia coach Kirby Smart is well aware that these Volunteers are different.

“This is our biggest test,” Smart said. “I don’t think we’ve played someone as good as these guys, especially the up-front guys."

Obviously, it’s Tennessee’s biggest test, too.

Around the SEC

This week’s games: No. 4 Florida at No. 21 Texas A&M; No. 17 LSU at Missouri; South Carolina at Vanderbilt; No. 14 Tennessee at No. 3 Georgia; Arkansas at No. 13 Auburn; No. 2 Alabama at Ole Miss; Mississippi State at Kentucky

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Pitts has emerged as Trask’s top target and one of the best tight ends in the SEC.

Who’s hot: The Florida Kyles. That would be quarterback Kyle Trask and tight end Kyle Pitts. In two games, Trask has passed for 684 yards. That’s impressive. But what’s really impressive is that he has already thrown 10 touchdown passes. OU’s Spencer Rattler, SMU’s Shane Buechele, Texas’ Sam Ehlinger and Louisiana Tech’s Luke Anthony are the only other quarterbacks in the country to throw at least 10 touchdown passes. All have played at least three games and have not faced as stringent competition as Trask. Six of Trask’s touchdown passes have gone to Pitts, who is tied for the national lead. North Texas wide receiver Jaelon Darden is the only other player with six touchdown catches. He’s played in three games.

Who’s not: What has happened to Auburn’s running game? Since Gus Malzahn took over as head coach in 2013, Auburn’s running game has averaged no less than 167 yards per game in any season. In six of his seven seasons, the Tigers have ranked no lower than fifth in the SEC in rushing. However, through two games, they have produced a paltry 130 rushing yards. Only Mississippi State has been less productive on the ground. The Tigers average just 2.5 yards per carry. They managed just 91 yards in a season-opening victory over Kentucky and had 39 in a loss to Georgia. Next, they face Arkansas, which has actually been solid defending the run through two games.

Keep an eye on: Hurricane Delta is expected to make landfall on the Louisiana Gulf Coast on Friday afternoon. The LSU vs. Missouri game, which was originally scheduled for Saturday night in Baton Rouge, has already been moved to 11 a.m. in Columbia, Missouri. No other venues or start times have changed, but weather from the storm could affect some of the games.

The pressure is on: Texas A&M’s oft-maligned offensive line has allowed just one sack thus far. It must be at its best against Florida, which amassed 4 sacks against Ole Miss and 4 against South Carolina. Quarterback Kellen Mond must be adequately protected for the Aggies to keep up with the high-scoring Gators. Also, trends show Florida’s success is highly dependent on its pass rush. Over the last three seasons, the Gators are 0-5 when failing to register a sack.

Best matchup: Offensive line plays looks to be the strength of Tennessee. The Volunteers are averaging 182 rushing yards and have allowed 4 sacks. That’s against South Carolina and Missouri, so there may be some question about just how good the Vols are up front. That question can be put to rest against the Georgia defensive front, which may be the best in the SEC. The Bulldogs are allowing just 58 rushing yards at a 2.3 yards per carry average. Georgia has also posted 5 sacks. Those numbers were comprised against Arkansas and Auburn, so maybe there’s still some question about the Bulldogs defense, too.

Discussion from...

SEC Round-Up: Time to find out if the Tennessee Volunteers are indeed 'back'

1,230 Views | 3 Replies | Last: 3 mo ago by AgOutsideAustin
zooguy96
How long do you want to ignore this user?
TN loses by 2 td's. Guarantano is almost as bad as Mond.
I know a lot about a little, and a little about a lot.
Iraq2xVeteran
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AG
This game is in Athens. Georgia's last regular season loss was a 20-17 2-OT loss to 4-8 South Carolina at home on 10/12/19. That loss snapped Georgia's 15 game winning streak against SEC East teams and their 16-game home winning streak. I predict Georgia will beat Tennessee by double digits for the fourth year in a row.
AgOutsideAustin
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AG
"Adequately protected" how bout Mond not be scared and help his oline out and scramble when the opportunity is there.
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