ATHENS, Ga. — In the past when Tennessee showed up on Georgia’s schedule, there was no need to build up the opponent.
The Volunteers were a top-20 foe in each of Mark Richt’s first six seasons at Georgia.
But when they visit Athens this Saturday, the Volunteers are unranked and come for a 3:30 p.m. game that could be dangerous for the Bulldogs. It is sandwiched between a rout over Vanderbilt that Georgia had circled and a pivotal game against South Carolina.
Maybe that’s why Georgia coaches made sure to talk up the Volunteers after the Bulldogs’ 48-3 win Saturday.
“They’re the University of Tennessee,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “They’re going to have athletes. They’re going to be fast. They’re going to be bigger than the guys we’ve played in the first four games and we’ve got to get ready to go.”
Fifth-ranked Georgia (4-0, 2-0 SEC) has won three of the past four games in the series, including a 41-14 drubbing in coach Derek Dooley’s first homecoming visit to Athens in 2010.
Tennessee (3-1, 0-1 SEC) dropped its lone SEC game 37-20 at home to Florida on Sept. 15, and has victories over N.C. State, Georgia State and Akron. The Volunteers were tied at halftime Saturday night with the Zips.
“We’re getting ready to play an excellent Tennessee team that’s got a bunch of NFL players and they’ve got an NFL system,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said.
This will be the sixth consecutive time Georgia has played an unranked Volunteers squad, but the Bulldogs were whipped in two of those games in Knoxville, 35-14 in 2007 and 45-19 in 2009.
The Bulldogs lead the SEC in scoring (47.5 points per game) and total offense (530.0 yards per game).
Georgia is balanced, ranking third in the SEC in passing (287.5 yards per game) and third in rushing (242.5).
Freshman Todd Gurley leads the SEC in rushing (101.5 yards per game) and scoring (10.5 points per game). The last non-kicker from Georgia to lead the SEC in scoring was Garrison Hearst in 1992.
Vanderbilt’s Zac Stacy saluted Gurley on twitter, saying he “has a future in this league.”
Gurley is second nationally among freshman behind Louisiana Tech’s Tevin King, who is rushing for 117.7 yards per game.
The Bulldogs 45-point win Saturday tied for the largest in SEC play under Richt, but big wins don’t always carry over.
In 2004, a 45-16 blowout of LSU was followed by a 19-14 loss to the Volunteers.
“We played just superb in that LSU game and then the next week … they beat us,” Richt said. “We’ve got to get our minds right and get this out of our system as quickly as we can and get ready for the next challenge.
The SEC East is shaping up as a race among three unbeaten teams — the No. 5 Bulldogs, No. 6 South Carolina and No. 11 Florida — that easily dispatched foes Saturday.
Georgia is expected this week to get back from suspension safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree, but Richt isn’t confirming that.
“We’ll figure it out in pregame warmup, I guess,” Richt said again Sunday. “Just like last week.”
Georgia has withstood the suspensions with its record intact.
“I don’t think people realize the amount of preparation that goes into a game, and when you don’t have some guys, you’ve got to balance getting them ready for when they do come back, as well as getting the guys ready to play the game,” Grantham said. “The guys that have played have prepared and done a really good job. I’m really proud of them, and I think as we move forward it will give us a little bit of depth.”
Notes: Safety Shawn Williams dealt with a hamstring that was bothering him Saturday night. “He thought he pulled it while he was stretching, but it was more of a spasm. It just kind of tightened up on him. It kind of shook him up. He thought maybe he had pulled it. It turned out it wasn’t, thankfully. I’m not saying it didn’t bother him throughout the game. You’d really have to ask him how much it bothered him, but he played the majority of the game. …Richt reiterated that he didn’t think defensive end Abry Jones’ ankle injury was serious. He had not received an injury update. … Quarterback Aaron Murray is now eighth nationally in pass efficiency (182.4). After two passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown Saturday, he now is tied for 11th in SEC history with Kentucky’s Tim Couch in career TD responsibility with 78.