Vols Will Battle Dawgs

Last year’s tilt on Rocky Top was part of an ongoing injuries horror show. Receivers had dropped like flies for weeks, and we had seen star Todd Gurley fall to an injury the week prior, rolled up on by an overmatched Bayou Bengal. We survived LSU after beating Carolina by double digits. Those were home games, though, and this was an away game in the SEC. Ask Hutson Mason about SEC road games; he’s 0-1 lifetime. Aaron Murray had moved to the opposite end of the experience spectrum: he’d been there, done that and eventually learned to mostly thrive on the road in the greatest conference in the history of all sports.

Keith Marshall, the as-a-recruit much more heralded half of what had been called “GURSHALL” was in a position then to shine. He had had his biggest career game to date sharing carries in the Red Out the year prior against Tennessee and was licking his chops. He played well enough for us as Gurley’s replacement to best LSU and remain undefeated in league. He was finally getting the coveted start and, all assumed, the lion’s share of carries. It didn’t happen. His knee was pegged and blown. He was done.

UT came roaring back, galvanized by our sad misfortune and the singing of 100,000+ orange-clad hillbillies. They made a few appearances in their fabled checkerboards. It was a razor close OT win, cementing Aaron Murray’s legacy as clutch. Pig fumbled their chance away. Getting the ball back regardless, we only needed a kick, and drilled one into the Smoky Mountain night. We won and did not let the mounting injuries get us…yet. We would eventually realize ourselves to be fully hobnailed.

This is a close series and a four-game streak by GEORGIA should produce no overconfidence. These are two of the ten winningest programs of all time, and Butch Jones has UT headed in the right direction, stabilized and with lots of young talent and a somewhat veteran passer.

Their inexperience on the lines of scrimmage may prove the difference. We may get to Worley. A single loss on the road to a top five team, at Oklahoma, where the score got away from them late should in no way doom Tennessee’s season, and a big road win against the DAWGS basically makes their whole early campaign a success. They did top eventual national #4 South Carolina last year and should not be taken lightly.

Just the facts: lose this game and Mason falls to 0-2 for his career in the SEC. It’s a must win for GEORGIA.

Follow Han Vance of BIG HAIRY BLAWG on Twitter: @hanvance