Georgia-Tennessee: Fulmer Hopes to "Avoid Losing"

Bleacher Report Senior Analyst IOctober 4, 2007

Icon11 letters, four syllables, and two words from UT head coach Phillip Fulmer—that's what scares me most about Saturday's Georgia-Tennessee contest.

Forget the game-planning and the key matchups—as soon as those two words came out of Fulmer's mouth, I knew the Vols were in trouble.

The coach said he hopes to "avoid losing" this Saturday against the Bulldogs. 

Specifically, he hopes the Vols can "avoid losing by taking care of the football and not giving up big plays."

While Fulmer's statement is true—the Vols do need to take care of the football and limit UGA's big plays—his quote reminded me of the age-old "Do these jeans make me look fat?" question posed by a wife to a husband. 

Regardless of what he says, the husband must be extremely careful in how he responds.

Fulmer would have done well to be so cautious.

Why did Fulmer use the words "avoid losing"? Why not "put ourselves in position to win," or "have a good shot at getting the W," or "give ourselves a chance"?

Am I reading too much into these two words? 

Yes.

Do I think Fulmer's Freudian slip will actually affect the outcome of UT's SEC home opener? 

No.

"Well, then what will affect the outcome?" you might ask.

Okay—no more "jeans making anyone look fat" tangents. 

Time to talk football. 

Here are some notes to help you impress your fellow tailgaters on Saturday when the topic of the UGA-UT game enters the conversation:

-Tennessee (2-2) had a bye week last weekend while #11 Georgia (4-1) won by a score of 45-17 over Ole Miss. "The open date came at a good time for us," Fulmer said in his press conference.

-Georgia comes to Knoxville seeking its fourth-straight win in Neyland Stadium.  The Vols haven't beaten Georgia in Knoxville since 1999.

-Tennessee has won two out of the last three games against the 'Dawgs, including last year's comeback-turned-runaway 51-33 win in Athens.

-Under Mark Richt, Georgia is now 23-3 on the road in the SEC (they play Florida in Jacksonville—a neutral site). 

When asked about this success, Richt noted that UGA's focus is strictly on football when playing road games, whereas playing at home puts other items on the agenda, like entertaining recruits and their families. 

-Fulmer mentioned that Britton Colquitt will be healthy enough to kickoff for the Vols starting this Saturday.  Colquitt's presence should help to alleviate the field-position woes faced by the UT defense this season. (See my lengthy explanation here)

-Tennessee's Kenny O'Neal (transfer from FSU and NCAA All-American sprinter) could begin seeing more playing time at receiver, where he gives Erik Ainge a legitimate deep threat.  O'Neal reportedly runs a 4.26 40-yard dash.

-Fulmer said Tuesday that he doesn't know of any team that has played a tougher schedule than his Vols, and that he hopes their early tests will help now that SEC play is upon them. 

While I agree that UT has played two quality teams in Cal and Florida, Washington has played a solid schedule as well (Ohio State, USC, and a win over Boise State). 

It's worth noting that Boise State beat Southern Miss—one of only two teams Tennessee has beaten thus far.  The Broncos beat USM 38-16; the Vols won 39-19.  Take it as it is.

-Richt and Fulmer both spoke this week about the importance of maintaining offensive balance in SEC play.  Both also said it will be imperative that their running games show up Saturday. 

UGA has two very solid backs in Thomas Brown and Knowshon Moreno (each averaging over 75 YPG this season), while UT uses up to four—Arian Foster, LaMarcus Coker, Montario Hardesty, and even freshman Lennon Creer

I'm quite impressed with's Moreno, as I wrote in an earlier article.

-Don't be fooled by the records—the three squads UGA and UT have lost to are a combined 13-2. Cal, South Carolina, and Florida are all very successful using the spread offense—something that both Georgia and Tennessee have had difficulty stopping in the recent past. 

Don't expect much trickery from Saturday's contest in Knoxville.  Richt and Fulmer each want to get their teams back to basics, focusing on field position, lack of turnovers, running the ball, and clock control.

-Both UGA and UT have much more than bragging rights to play for in this weekend's rivalry game. 

With South Carolina (UGA's lone SEC loss) and Florida (UT's lone SEC loss) both playing top-10 teams (Kentucy and LSU, respectively), the 'Dawgs and Vols are hoping to play catchup on Saturday. 

If South Carolina and Florida both lose, the winner of the UGA-UT game will control their own destiny in the SEC East.  Technically, Kentucky will have the lead in the standings, but will still have remaining games against UGA and UT. 

Needless to say, the loser of the UGA-UT matchup will most likely be rule out of SEC Championship talk.

Extra Point

IconFormer Tennessee QB Todd Helton achieved a career milestone when his Rockies made the MLB playoffs this week. 

Colorado won a single-game playoff in the 13th inning over the Padres to clinch the NL wild card spot.  

The Rockies won 13 out of their final 14 games to force the playoff. The Vols will look for similar success as they hope to avoid losing—I mean,"improve on their record"—this weekend against Georgia.

The UGA-UT game will be played in Knoxville, TN and will be televised on CBS. Kickoff is set for 3:34 pm EST.

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