Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray vs Tennessee secondary
Aaron Murray was the preseason first-team All-SEC quarterback, but the guy leading the conference in the passing categories nearing the midway point of the season is Tennessee’s Tyler Bray.
Murray used his feet to run for two touchdowns against Tennessee last year including a 35-yard scramble, but he also completed 17 of 25 passes for 266 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Georgia could use another big game from Murray in a big stage (ESPN2) in the third largest stadium in the land (102,455-seat Neyland Stadium).
“I talked to Aaron about that this week,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “Playing a big-time game and on the road, that’s what you’re here for to play in those games and win those games. He’s preparing hard for that. That’s something he circled as one of his goals was to win those close games and to win those big games on the road and this is definitely one of them this week so it’s a big challenge for him.”
Tennessee will offer challenges—and opportunities—in its pass coverage.
“They play man coverage almost every down,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “They are very confident in their ability to do that.”
Said Bobo: “We’re going to have execute our route running and we’re going to have to throw and catch in tight coverage.”
Georgia got some of that last week in the win over Mississippi State when Jonathan Banks matched up in man coverage against Malcolm Mitchell.
“We’re going to have a lot of those this week,” Bobo said.
Tennessee ranks eighth in the SEC in pass efficiency defense and pass defense (198.5 yards per game).
“They trust their DBs to make some plays and really lock up with receivers,” Murray said. “Our guys are going to have to be ready for it. They’re going to have to be ready to get off man-to-man, bump and run the entire day. I have complete trust in my receivers. I feel they can get open against anyone in the country.”
Georgia relies on its play-action game to pay dividends in its passing attack.
“We’ve got to have really good eye level at every level, at defensive back and at linebacker, because they can fool you,” Tennessee defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox told reporters this week.
Free safety Prentiss Wagner has started 17 straight games. He had a team-high five interceptions last season.
“They’ve got some athletic guys,” Georgia receiver Tavarres King said.
He pointed to cornerback Marsalis Teague as a player “who attacks the ball when it’s in the air.”
Tennessee hasn’t been securing many balls in the air. The Volunteers have just one interception this year after accounting for 18 last season.
Murray threw three interceptions last week, giving him six on the season.
“He’s good at putting things behind him,” King said. “He’ll be fine.”