FIVE KEYS TO VICTORY
Get Cox on track
The quarterback question was answered early this past week. Mark Richt and Mike Bobo are sticking with fifth-year senior Joe Cox under center. After Cox threw a career-high three interceptions in a 41-17 loss to Florida, all options were considered. Now, the Bulldogs need to give Cox some confidence. He doesn't need to throw the ball 25 times today for the Bulldogs to cruise. Just some high percentage passes, a couple of touchdown tosses and a strong running game should do the trick. If Cox is on the sidelines in the fourth quarter this time, it should be because the Bulldogs have already sealed the victory.
Swarm to the ball
Georgia's speed on defense should be too much for Tennessee Tech, which ranks 92nd in offense in the Football Championship Subdivision. The Bulldogs have only six turnovers from its defense this season. They should aim to get at least three today. They'll have to work for them. Tennessee Tech only has four lost fumbles this season—tied for 14th fewest in the FCS—and Lee Sweeney has eight interceptions in eight games. The Bulldogs need to get their hands on tipped balls, pressure Sweeney into forced throws and use their talent advantage and become playmakers. Georgia didn't get a single turnover against Florida.
Protect the ball
Tennessee Tech had three interceptions last week and has 13 for the season, which ranks 11th among 118 FCS teams. The Bulldogs are 119th in turnover margin in the FBS and have lost 21 turnovers. "We have no chance if they don't make some mistakes and we don't get some turnovers," Tennessee Tech coach Watson Brown said. Cox has thrown an interception in every game and has 12 on the year. Georgia hasn't gone without throwing an interception in a game since the 45-42 loss to Georgia Tech last season. The Bulldogs piled up 488 yards in that game.
Stay off the trainer's table.
The last thing Georgia needs today is to add to its injury list. Receiver A.J. Green (bruised lung) and defensive end Justin Houston (hyper-extended elbow) are out and offensive lineman Clint Boling is playing through a minor knee injury. The Bulldogs are 3-3 in the SEC and can't afford to be missing key pieces when it closes out its season against Auburn, Kentucky and out of conference at Georgia Tech. Georgia should be able to sub liberally against an FCS opponent and keep players fresh for the stretch run.
Excite the fans
Even after 35 days since their last home game against LSU, Georgia fans might stay away in large numbers today, homecoming or not. Games against Football Championship Subdivision teams usually generate a collective yawn for SEC fans. The number of buys for the pay-per-view television broadcast certainly can't be helped by the way the Bulldogs are playing. Georgia needs a fast start to generate some positive vibes in Sanford Stadium and let the players relax and just play football. Shoot, go ahead and use a trick play or two to add some excitement.
Offense Edge: Georgia.
Backup quarterback Logan Gray is slated to come in for a series—probably in the first half. Gray's last time on the field wasn't a fun time. He was picked off by Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes for a touchdown. Gray is 1 of 7 for 6 yards this season and has three rushing yards on four carries. Freshman Rantavious Wooten (4 catches, 91 yards) is scheduled to start in place of injured receiver A.J. Green. Redshirt sophomore running back Caleb King (154 rushing yards) will make his first start at a Bulldog. Tennessee Tech's Tim Benford caught five passes for 122 yards and a game-winning touchdown with three minutes left last week. Tennessee Tech was held to 280 yards of offense last week against Tennessee State in a 20-13 victory. Quarterback Lee Sweeney, a Louisville transfer, has 592 career completions, third all-time in Ohio Valley Conference history, ahead of current Dally Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo who had his No. 17 retired for Eastern Illinois's game against Tennessee Tech Oct. 17. Sweeney threw for 318 yards against UT Martin.
Defense Edge: Georgia
Georgia's defense gave up 20 points to LSU and 13 to Arizona State in its last two home games, but the Bulldogs' three games away from home since included 45 points given up to Tennessee and 41 to Florida. The Bulldogs are 89th in the nation in scoring defense at 29.4 per game. Georgia is 11th in the SEC in pass defense, giving up 229 passing yards per game and has allowed an SEC-high 17 touchdown passes. Tennessee Tech is seventh in the OVC in total defense, allowing 334.3 yards per game Redshirt freshman Caleb Mitchell is coming off a 13-tackle, two sack, one interception game for Tennessee Tech. Cornerback Brandon Boykin has 12 tackles the past two games and is fourth on the Bulldogs with 36 for the season. Georgia gave up a season-high 210 rushing yards to Florida last week and the Gators got 11 first downs on runs.
Special Teams Edge: Georgia
Georga punter Drew Butler continues to lead the nation with a 49.7 average. Butler had a 61-yard punt against Florida. Georgia kicker Blair Walsh is 12 of 13 on field goals including a 49 yarder last week. Tennessee Tech ranks in the top 30 in its classification in both kickoff return average (23.0) and punt return average (10.7). Maurice Wallace averages 32.1 yards on eight returns including one for 81 yards. Kansas State's Brandon Banks returned kickoff returns for touchdowns of 91 and 92 yards against Tennessee Tech. Is Georgia's Brandon Boykin going to spring his third of the season? Golden Eagles kicker Timothy Donegan is 2 of 6 on field goals with a long of 28. Tennessee Tech is averaging 32.4 yards in net punting.
Coaching Edge: Georgia
Georgia coach Mark Richt is 86-26 in nine seasons at Georgia, but it's the Bulldogs 4-4 record this season that has fans concerned. Watson Brown is 106-170-1 in 25 seasons overall and 12-19 in three seasons at Tennessee Tech. His team was picked to finish sixth in the OVC, but is 4-2 overall. Brown had previous stops at UAB, Vanderbilt, Rice, Cincinnati and Austin Peay. He is 0-6 all-time against Georgia. Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo's unit has slipped to 97th in the nation in total offense, allowing 328.6 yards per game.
Intangibles Edge: Tennessee Tech
Georgia is hearing more unrest from its fan base and wondering what lower-tier bowl they might end up with. Getting up for an early afternoon game against an FCS opponent may not be easy after an emotional loss to top-ranked and archrival Florida last week, but on the other hand beating up on somebody else might be motivation. This is Tennesee Tech's second ever trip to Athens and first since 1943 when it lost 67-0. Tennesee Tech has 11 players from Georgia on its roster.
Overall Edge: Georgia
Tennessee Tech is in third place in the Ohio Valley Conference, but its bigger game isn't against Georgia, it is next week in conference against Jacksonville State. The Golden Eagles are 0-22 all-time against FBS teams, but are on track for its first winning season since 2004. Every Bowl Subdivision coach has to mention Appalachian State's stunner over Michigan in Ann Arbor back in 2007, right? The miracle upset has happened, but it won't today. Georgia will romp to an easy victory and climb back over .500. Really.
The Bulldogs are 68-17-2 on homecoming. The Bulldogs last lost a homecoming game in 2006 when Vanderbilt pulled a 24-22 upset. Georgia is 35-4 against teams from outside the SEC, including 24-1 at Sanford Stadium.
Brandon Boykin set the Georgia school record for kickoff return yardage last week. He now has 714 kickoff return yards on 28 returns. The SEC record is 905 return yards on 41 returns by Arkansas' Dennis Johnson last season. Boykin is the first player in SEC history with two 100-yard kickoff returns for touchdowns in a season.
Tennessee Tech has its share of transfers. They include Kevlin Quarles, Jimmie Blair and Cory Powers from UAB, Clint Brewster from Minnesota, Andrew Higgins from Tulane, Cedric Wilkerson from Arkansas State and Lee Sweeney from Lousivlle.
Teams from the Ohio Valley Conference are 17-128-1 against FBS opponents. The last win came in 2004 when Eastern Illinois beat Eastern Michigan.
Matchup to watch
Georgia OL vs. Tennessee Tech DL
The Bulldogs still rank last in the Southeastern Conference in rushing at just under 110 yards per game, but they've had two of their three biggest rushing outputs of the season the last two games with 173 against Vanderbilt and 121 against Florida.
"Florida is one of the better defensive teams in the country versus the rush, and I thought our line actually had a pretty good day providing some space for those guys," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "I thought the guys ran well and broke some tackles. I thought we made improvement in that area."
Georgia should be able to move the ball on the ground against Tennessee Tech, which ranks 91st among FCS teams in rushing defense, allowing 173.5 per game.
"If we can get a good run game going, we definitely want to keep it up," quarterback Joe Cox said. "This will be another game for our line and backs to start another run game. We've had a couple of games where we've had flashes of it, but not really a full game."
Kansas State rushed for 296 yards and five touchdowns in a 49-7 win on Sept. 26 against Tennessee Tech. It ran the ball on 60 of 71 offensive plays.
"We watched the film on them and it seemed like they ran the ball against them every single play," fullback Shaun Chapas said. "I was like `Is this a running clip or is this the game?' I was told `This is the game.' They were just handing the ball off, handing the ball off, handing the ball off."
Georgia will start Caleb King at running back because he's ahead as a pass protector, but look for Washaun Ealey to get plenty of work as well.
"We had some youth at tailback and I feel like they've really grown up and really gotten better," Chapas said.
Tennessee Tech's biggest starting defensive linemen is listed at 275 pounds. Georgia's offensive line includes four players 300-pounds or more with 295-pound Chris Davis the lightest.
"They're bigger and stronger than we are," Tennessee Tech coach Watson Brown said. "We need to get our pads down and hang on. They're going to knock us around because we're not nearly as big or strong. We need to be patient."