KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (UT) -- Tennessee is about to embark on a five-week gauntlet in which it will face four ranked teams, including three currently ranked among the top six teams in the nation. First up is No. 5 Georgia in Athens this Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET on CBS).
With the Bulldogs leading the SEC in both scoring offense and total offense and a defense full of talented playmakers, the Vols know they have quite the challenge in front of them.
"We all know about Georgia," UT head coach Derek Dooley said. "There is no sense in me talking about how good they are. They are probably playing as good as I've seen them in a long time. The quarterback is averaging 10.5 an attempt, the runner is averaging 9.2 an attempt, [they are scoring] 48 points and only giving up 16. They are probably one of the most talented defenses in the country, so we've got our work cut out for us. Hopefully we can take a lot of the lessons we have learned in the first four games and try to go play as good as we can play in Athens and see how it turns out."
Saturday's game will be the first true road contest for the Big Orange this season. While the hostile atmosphere at Sanford Stadium is tough for any team to play in, the Vols feel prepared and excited about the opportunity.
"It is [a concern]," Dooley said. "The good news is that a lot of our guys have been in these environments, so it shouldn't be as overwhelming as it has been in the past, at least I hope it isn't. You look on offense and I think everybody except CP [Cordarrelle Patterson] and Tiny [Richardson] played at Georgia two years ago. Defense probably not as many but we had a lot of hostile games last year, so hopefully you learn from it. You have to learn to enjoy playing in that kind of environment."
Much of Georgia's success this season has been due to their ability to run the ball with true freshman Todd Gurley leading the way as the SEC's leading rusher (101.5 ypg) and scorer (42 points). To stop him will require a total team effort from the Orange and White.
"We have to win at the line of scrimmage first, play good scheme discipline and then have a lot of hats to the football because one guy isn't going to bring him down. It's very hard when he breaks through the first seven to bring him down with those little guys in the back. Scheme discipline, winning at the line of scrimmage on your man and then a lot of hats to the ball. Then you have to do it every play. That's what happens."
Gurley isn't the only weapon the Bulldogs have on offense though as junior Aaron Murray has established himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the nation.
"He is playing with a lot of confidence right now," Dooley said. "He has a very strong arm and a lot of snaps under his belt. They don't change a lot offensively in what they do, so it is that deliberate practice where he's had a lot of work at getting good at what they do. You can just see him triggering the ball a lot quicker than he ever has, he's a lot more accurate than he has been and that just comes with experience."
The list of playmakers carries over to the UGA defense as well, where the Big Orange will have to find a way to slow down SEC sacks leader Jarvis Jones.
"If you are not aware of where he is he can just wreck your game plan because of his athleticism and ability to win on pass rush and be disruptive in the backfield," Dooley said. "He just has one of those playmaking personalities. He wants to make a game-changing play and they move him around a little bit. You just have to be very aware of where he is and you have to be very disciplined on how you block him, so we'll try to do both of those."
The son of former Georgia head coach Vince Dooley, Derek Dooley will be making his second trip back to Athens as the head coach of the Vols. Although Georgia emerged with a 41-14 victory back in 2010, Dooley feels that his team is much more prepared for the challenge this time around.
"We are a lot more prepared and we are certainly a lot better than we were two years ago," Dooley said. "We didn't play very good down there and obviously need a lot better effort than what we put on two years ago."
Information provided by UT Sports Media Relations and UTSports.com.