Tennessee-Georgia Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated September 25, 2012
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Mark Richt would not confirm expectations No. 5 Georgia finally will be at full strength this week against Tennessee. Georgia has won its first four games, including last Saturday night's 48-3 rout of Vanderbilt, with All-America safety Bacarri Rambo and starting linebacker Alec Ogletree serving suspensions. Richt has never clarified how long the suspensions will last. On Sunday he continued his weekly ritual of not updating the status of the two defensive stars. "We'll figure it out in pregame warmup I guess, just like last week," Richt said. It has been difficult to notice the Bulldogs have been missing two key players on defense. Georgia's balanced offense, led by quarterback Aaron Murray and freshman running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, has kept the Bulldogs winning. Georgia (4-0, 2-0 SEC) has topped 40 points in four consecutive games for the first time in school history. Murray completed his first 12 passes, Gurley rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns and Marshall added two touchdown runs, including a 52-yarder, in the impressive win over the Commodores, which matched the Bulldogs' largest margin of victory in the series. It also matched a 62-17 win over Kentucky in 2004 as Georgia's most lopsided win under Richt. Now the Bulldogs could gain more momentum if they have Ogletree and Rambo back this week. Rambo led the SEC with eight interceptions last season, giving him 13 for his career. Alec Ogletree had 52 tackles, 3 sacks and 3 forced fumbles in eight games last season. Ogletree's twin brother, fullback Alexander Ogletree, strongly hinted on his (at)Non-Stop-Grind Twitter account on Wednesday the suspensions will end this week. He said the Ogletree brothers and Rambo will be "on a mission!" on Monday. Rambo's high school coach said this summer the suspension followed a second positive drug test for marijuana. Alec Ogletree was suspended for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Cornerback Sanders Commings and linebacker Chase Vasser were suspended for the first two games. Georgia could have a deeper defense the remainder of the season, thanks to the experience gained by players filling in the last four weeks. "I think to this point our team has done a good job, especially on defense with guys stepping into roles that are more than they probably would have been if there weren't anybody losing playing time," Richt said. "I think everybody has had an opportunity to play more than they probably would have. They've benefited from it and thankfully we've won to this point through it all." The Bulldogs looked powerful in the lopsided win over Vanderbilt, but Richt said the team hasn't reached its peak. "Do I think we can get better? Yeah, I do think we can continue to get better," Richt said. Georgia's defense can use Ogletree and Rambo against the Tennessee's potent passing game. Tyler Bray threw for 401 yards in Tennessee's 47-26 win over Akron on Saturday. The Vols (3-1, 0-1) also had a career-high 151 yards rushing by Rajion Neal. Asked if Tennessee's offense is the best the Bulldogs have faced this season, Richt said "I think so, definitely throwing the ball. "They are throwing it and catching it extremely well. Their run game is starting to come around, too, and I know that has been important to them to do that. They want balance in their attack and it's hard to have balance when you have the types of receivers they've got." Tennessee's defense, though, has struggled to prevent big plays. One week after allowing four gains of over 30 yards in the final 18 1/2 minutes of a 37-20 loss to Florida, Tennessee gave up a 70-yard touchdown run to Quentin Hines that briefly caused the Volunteers to fall behind Akron. Florida broke away from Tennessee by scoring on Trey Burton's 80-yard touchdown run and Jeff Driskel's 75-yard touchdown pass to Frankie Hammond. Tennessee also gave up runs of 45 and 33 yards to Mike Gillislee. The long runs are particularly troublesome for Tennessee heading into this game. Georgia's average of 6.0 yards per carry leads the SEC, while Tennessee has given up 4.6 yards per rush. The only SEC team yielding more yards per rush than Tennessee is Auburn, which has allowed 4.8 yards per carry. "None of them are excusable," Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said of the long runs. "You just can't give up plays like that running the ball and expect to win." Georgia, a two-touchdown favorite, has feasted on big plays. The Bulldogs' offense has produced five touchdowns from at least 29 yards away in its last two games. Marshall scored on a 52-yard breakaway and Gurley added a 29-yard touchdown run against Vanderbilt. Gurley provided a 38-yard touchdown run in a 56-20 rout of Florida Atlantic, while Murray's two touchdown passes included a 67-yard connection with Michael Bennett and a 36-yard completion to Arthur Lynch. Most of the big plays the Vols allowed recently came when running backs headed outside and beat the defense to the edge. Georgia generally takes a different approach. "We haven't played a team up to now that really wants to run the ball between the tackles," Tennessee defensive end Maurice Couch said. "With Georgia, that's pretty much their offense. They want to run the ball north and south. ... It's going to be a tough and very physical game." Georgia is looking for a third straight win over Tennessee and a ninth consecutive victory at home.
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