It's going to be two teams in big-time need of some good news when Georgia and Tennessee square off Saturday afternoon Neyland Stadium.
The Bulldogs (3-2, 2-1) are anxious to get back on the victory trail after losing a heartbreaker to No. 4 LSU, while the Vols (2-3, 1-2) under first-year coach Lane Kiffin are looking for their first signature win.
Kickoff is set for 12:21 (SEC-TV).
"It's a game where both teams want to get back on track. We certainly had a tough ball game this last week. All of our games have been tough to this point. All of our games have been close. To come out on the losing end after winning three thrillers was a little tough to swallow," said Georgia coach Mark Richt, who's Bulldogs are coming off a 20-13 loss last week to LSU."The bottom line is Tennessee is not going to feel sorry for us. We can't feel sorry for ourselves."
It's been an up-and-down year for the Vols as well.
Tennessee opened its season with a dominating effort against Western Kentucky (63-7, but scuffled offensive in a home loss to UCLA (19-15) before playing Florida tough the following week in Gainesville before losing 23-13.
Kiffin's bunch then beat Ohio 34-23 despite another ho-hum effort before Auburn took out the Vols 26-22 last weekend.
"When we've played well, the concern has been not playing well the next week," Kiffin said. "When we haven't played well, we've bounced back and played well the next week. It's kind of been the opposite of what you normally worry about."
Georgia's problems haven't been related to effort, although the Bulldogs certainly haven't done themselves any favor with numerous inconsistencies on both sides of the ball.
The Bulldogs come into Saturday's game dead last in the SEC in rushing offense (98 yards per game) and rank in the lower quarter of the league in such categories as scoring offense (tied for 8th, 27.2 points per game), total offense (10th, 340.6 ypg game), total defense (358.2 ypg), pass defense (236.8 ypg), scoring defense (27.8 ppg), turnover margin (12th, -1.80) and kickoff coverage (10th, 38.4 net average).
"I guess no one has an identity until they are consistently playing something where you could define that team to say this is what we do well. Right now we've not been consistent offensively, defensively or in the kicking game quite frankly," Richt said. "I feel like we are gaining a lot of positive momentum defensively. Some of our special teams have played outstanding and a couple has struggled. Offensively, we've pretty much run the gamut of emotions and productivity. Again, I guess the one word I'm looking for more than anything else is a more consistent effort all the way around."
Two players figure to play integral roles for their respective teams. For Tennessee, it's All-American safety Eric Berry, who the Bulldogs will have to account for on every play if they want to consistently move the football. The Vols, meanwhile, have a healthy respect for sophomore receiver A.J. Green, who leads the SEC in both receptions (30), yards (527) and receiving yards per game (105.4).
"I'll tell you what, Green is something else," Tennessee defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said. "He's special. I told our guys, `Terrell Owens and Randy Moss in his heyday, that's what this guy is.' Just throw it up and he'll go get it."
The elder Kiffin is also wary of tight end Orson Charles, who the Vols recruited heavily before he signed with the Bulldogs.
As the former defensive coordinator at Tampa Bay, Kiffin was already familiar with Charles' high school exploits and doesn't exactly relish going against him Saturday.
"We got to know him pretty good. I lived in Tampa. Got to see the kid grow up," the elder Kiffin said. "It'd be nice if he was right here at the University of Tennessee, so now we've got to play defense against him."
Richt hopes another freshman makes an impact as well.
With Caleb King to miss Saturday's game with a fractured jaw, look for freshman Washaun Ealey to get his first extended playing time after seeing his first action last week against LSU when he rushed eight times for 33 yards.
"He thinks he's ready, we'll see," Richt said. "But a lot of these young kids don't know what they're in for going into this place (Neyland Stadium) for the first time. We're all going to need to be ready."
NOTES: Besides King, wide receiver Tavarres King (concussion), backup cornerback Chad Gloer (hamstring), defensive end Kiante Tripp (shoulder, stinger) and linebacker Akeem Dent (hamstring) will not make the trip.
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