Tennessee coach Butch Jones isn’t happy with the way his team is trending heading into Saturday’s home game against unbeaten and seventh-ranked Georgia.
That’s understandable after his players struggled last Saturday to beat winless Massachusetts 17-13 in a game Jones had hoped to see the Volunteers bounce back from a last-second loss at Florida with much more pep in their step.
Instead, he saw a team that lacked energy in front of home fans at Neyland Stadium.
“We had some players now who played with some energy and passion, so it’s not everyone,” Jones said. “I think we showed passion and energy in the other games, but that’s something that we will not tolerate and we will not go backwards with.”
Jones has reason to be concerned with Kirby Smart bringing his Bulldogs to Knoxville looking to keep pace with Florida in the SEC East race.
Another possible motivating factor for the Bulldogs? Last season’s 34-31 home loss to the Vols on a 43-yard Hail Mary pass – although you won’t get Smart to admit to it.
“We try to preach to our guys that every game has a history and life of its own, and every game is independent of the next game,” Smart said.
The last six games in the series have been decided by eight points or less.
Georgia’s defense has been outstanding so far, allowing just 11.5 points per game and coming off a dominating 31-3 win over Mississippi State in its SEC opener last week.
Offensively, freshman Jake Fromm will again get the start at quarterback for the Bulldogs even with Jacob Eason having recovered from a knee sprain he suffered in the first game of the season.
Fromm’s shown the kind of leadership Smart expects, and while the Bulldogs’ offense is run-heavy behind Nick Chubb, the freshman also has a better arm than Eason. Fromm has completed 43 of 69 passes for 650 yards and seven touchdowns with just one interception.
In 2016, Eason finished with 2,430 yards and 16 touchdowns, but he only completed 55 percent of his passes and was intercepted eight times while averaging 6.57 yards per completion. In comparison, Fromm is averaging 9.42 yards per throw this season.
If the situation arises, however, Smart won’t hesitate to get Eason into the game.
“The point for both of them is to have team vision, to have the goal to make the team better,” said Smart. “Both are working on that. It’s not just about them individually.”
Chubb has gained 371 yards on 59 carries and has scored six touchdowns with a long run of 32 yards.
“I’ve been very impressed with their offensive line,” Jones said. “I think they have very good team speed. They challenge us schematically with the different personnel groupings and formations…their offense is going to create space and big plays.”
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
All times Central
Vanderbilt at Florida, Saturday 11 a.m., ESPN
Georgia at Tennessee, Saturday 2:30 p.m., CBS
Mississippi State at Auburn, Saturday 5 p.m., ESPN
South Carolina at Texas A&M, Saturday 6:30 p.m., SEC Network
Mississippi at Alabama, Saturday 8 p.m., ESPN
- Alabama (4-0, 1-0):Last Week: W, at Vanderbilt, 59–0. The Impact: Tide didn’t just win 18th straight SEC win, they did it in devastating fashion against proud Vandy defense with program record 599 differential in yards (677-78).
- Georgia (4-0, 1-0):Last Week: W, Mississippi State, 31-3. The Impact: Bulldogs barking that they are back as SEC contender after scoring on 59-yard flea flicker on first offensive play, then limiting MSU to a field goal in battle of ranked teams.
- Auburn (3-1, 1-0):Last Week: W, at Missouri, 51-14. The Impact: Kerryon Johnson returned from hamstring injury by scoring five TDs – all on short runs – as Tigers overpowered Mizzou.
- Florida (2-1, 2-0): Last Week: W, at Kentucky, 28-27. The Impact: Luke Del Rio took his turn as game-saving QB and Gators extended their win streak to 31 games over Kentucky. Does he get start now or does Felipe Franks? It’s good to have options.
- Mississippi State (3-1, 1-1): Last Week: L, at Georgia, 31-3 . The Impact:. Dan Mullen’s team faces third-straight ranked SEC opponent, and second straight on road, against No. 13 Auburn. That makes it all the tougher to bounce back from crushing loss.
6. LSU (3-1, 0-1):Last Week: W, Syracuse, 35-26. The Impact: Andraez ”Greedy” Williams is tied for second in nation in interceptions after making his third in four games.
7. Tennessee (3-1, 0-1):Last Week: W, Massachusetts, 17-13. The Impact: Vols’ offense took nap against winless UMass, causing Butch Jones to point fingers at nearly everyone but himself. Who will Butch blame if Georgia delivers SEC East knockout punch?
8. Kentucky (3-1, 1-1):Last Week: L, Florida, 28-27. The Impact: Austin MacGinnis, who a 50-yard field goal in the game, didn’t have enough leg on 58 yarder that could have won game.
9. Vanderbilt (3-1, 0-1): Last Week: L, Alabama, 59-0. The Impact: Commodores singing blues after Alabama scorched what had been the nation’s stingiest defense (4.3 points per game) for 59 points. Vandy now No. 25 in scoring defense (18.0).
10. Texas A&M (3-1, 1-0):Last Week: W, vs. Arkansas, 50-43, OT. The Impact: Aggies beat Razorbacks for sixth straight year, including in OT for third time in four years. Anemic Gamecocks don’t stand a chance of keeping up on scoreboard.
11. South Carolina (3-1, 1-1):Last Week: W, 17-16, Louisiana Tech. The Impact: Will Muschamp’s offense had to score all 17 points in fourth quarter last week to win. Gamecocks may need 17 points every quarter to beat high-scoring Aggies.
12. Arkansas (1-2, 0-1):Last Week: L, 50-43, vs. Texas A&M. The Impact:. Losing two in row to Texas teams puts more heat on Bret Bielema, who can start packing his bags after dropping to 10-23 in SEC games with little relief in sight.
13. Mississippi (2-1, 0-0):Last Week: Idle. The Impact: Rebels are in for long, long night if they can’t at least burn some clock against Alabama.
14. Missouri (1-3, 0-2):Last Week: L, Auburn, 51-14. The Impact: Tigers are last in the conference in total defense and No. 107 (452.5 yards per game) nationally and No. 122 in scoring defense (40.0 points per game) out of 129 teams.
All times Central; Predicted winners in Bold Caps)
Vanderbilt at FLORIDA, Saturday 11 a.m., ESPN
New Mexico State at ARKANSAS, Saturday 11 a.m., SEC Network
GEORGIA at Tennessee, Saturday 2:30 p.m., CBS
Eastern Michigan at KENTUCKY, Saturday 3 p.m., SEC Network
Mississippi State at AUBURN, Saturday 5 p.m., ESPN
Troy at LSU, Saturday 6 p.m., ESPNU
South Carolina at TEXAS A&M, Saturday 6:30 p.m., SEC Network
Mississippi at ALABAMA, Saturday 8 p.m., ESPN
LAST WEEK: 8-0