Jump to content

Advanced Stat/Scheme Preview: Georgia vs Tennessee

Graham Coffey

And we’re back… This time, we’re ramping up to preview the biggest game to be played in Athens since I’ve been alive.

This game has so many storylines it can be hard to cut through the noise. It has been billed as Georgia’s great defense against Tennessee’s great offense. Unfortunately for the national media, Georgia also has a great offense. Tennessee has a defense as well. Is it great? No. But its style of play is aided by knowing its offense will score points. To this point is has had the luxury of being aggressive without much recourse. If it gives up plays it usually knows its offense can turn around and answer. 

Producer Josh was out this week so some of the plays came through a little bit choppy on the video broadcast of our preview. Because of that, I’m embedding a link to the plays I pulled for the show. I’m also leaving my notes with the clip info labeled on them so everything is easy to reference for those of you who enjoy a little more detail. 

Tennessee Offense

Bama Clip 9- This is 2nd leading WR Bru McCoy (43 TGT/30 REC 451 YDS). McCoy lines up out wide on over 93% of his snaps. He is Hooker’s first read on the play. Hooker stares down that first read a lot. That will be a theme throughout this preview. McCoy is strong with the ball in the air. UT’s leader in Contested Catches this year isn’t Hyatt or Tillman- It’s McCoy with 5. 

Bama Clip 11 - This is what you CANNOT let happen against the Vols... Hooker’s first read isn’t open and he sees a lane to step up in the pocket. He takes off up the middle and heads towards the sideline for a chunk play. He averages 7.1 YPA and has 418 rushing yards this year. UT’s top two RB’s are Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright. Wright has run for 478 YDS on 5.2 YPA and Small has run for 475 YDS on 4.3 YPA. They’re not bad but they’re also not great SEC backs. Hooker is what makes this ground game go, especially against a talented DL. You can’t leave him lanes and you have to tackle him when he breaks contain. 

Bama Clip 13 - There’s a lot of spots on tape where UT has 6 run blockers and Bama has 7 defenders committed to the box. UT used a blocker like a Fullback/H-Back and just crashes down hill behind the Center with a Zone Power concept. UT averages 4.6 YDS running between Center & RG and 4.5 YPA running between Center & LG. Bama gives up 5 yards on 1st & 10. This happened over and over in that game. Georgia cannot allow it to happen. UGA has to win in the run game, especially when they have a numbers advantage. 

Bama Clip 47 - When UT gets the first 1st down of the series they almost always come to the line and run the ball after a quick snap. If you stop that run and put them in 2nd & 8+ it changes everything for their offense. It slows the tempo too. They start to check and motion and just generally think a little bit harder about what they’re doing. Stuffing the run on first and second down actually gives the crowd a better chance to disrupt how the Vols operate.

Bama Clip 17 - You turn on the tape of UT’s inside rushes from that Alabama game and these are just atrocious run fits by Bama. This isn’t any special sauce from UT. It isn’t magic. You can’t get turned around in the hole over and over as a defensive lineman and be successful stopping the run. Bama got turned around a lot. 

Bama Clip 15 & CLIP 16 - It’s a misnomer that UT stays spread out all the time. This is a heavy set and Bama just makes a leverage mistake. First read throw from Hooker… Again.

Bama Clip 32 - On this clip you don’t see Bama get a ton of pressure on Hooker, but you see him forced to step up in the pocket and he badly underthrows Hyatt. Even if you don’t hit him or sack him you can have an affect on his throws. The key is getting him off of his spot. 

Bama Clip 36 - A lot of this UT offense stops being so easy if your CB’s don’t give away inside leverage. If you don’t let them slant you to death and force Hooker into longer throws outside the hashes with more air yards then things get harder for the Vols. 

Bama Clip 46 - So many inside crossing routes. Just so many routes where the Bama DB’s don’t play inside technique and force UT’s WR’s to fight through tight coverage. 

Bama Clip 40 - UT runs a lot of motion presnap to try and make the defense tip its hand on whether they are in man/zone coverage. They also do it to confuse assignments. Bama just busts coverages on some big plays due to simple communication. It looks like some players think they’re in zone and others think they are playing man. Bring assignment sounds is a huge part of the battle against the Vols. 

Bama Clip 49 AND Clip 50 - Hyatt in motion again and it’s a big play for a TD on a play-action. This isn’t Spread concepts. This is UT with a Heavy Set and faking a Stretch Zone to the left with Hooker rolling right and Hyatt coming to the flat for a 2-yard catch. Nobody is there and he runs it in for a score. This is just simply the Vols feeling like they can beat the opposition to the Edge. UGA’s safeties and LB’s have elite speed to string these plays out, but they have to have good eyes and stay in position. 

Bama Clip 71 - This OL is pretty nasty off the right side here. They have been good in short yardage. The Vols have scored a TD on every “Goal-to-go” situation they’ve been in this season. That has to come to an end eventually. From a variance standpoint I actually think that stat favors Georgia when Tennessee gets in the red zone on Saturday. 

Bama Clip 95 - Bama’s interior lineman aren’t as good as Georgia’s, but they still managed to sack Hooker on an interior rush here against Center #63 Cooper Mays. UT only allowed 8 pressured versus Bama. That number has to go up for UGA. The Vols gave up 15 pressures to Florida, but that is the most they have allowed so far this year. 

Bama Clip 99 - Hooker isn’t perfect. He puts 50% of his 20+ yard throws on target. That’s the same amount as Bennett. 

Bama Clip 110 - 2nd & 10 and Bama has good coverage downfield. Great opportunity to force a throwaway, put UT in 3rd & long, and get off the field… Instead they leave Hooker a lane and he beats them. You have to keep contain on Hooker. 

Bama Clip 128 - Looking at a This isn’t special. It isn’t “scheming him open” with a complex route pattern. The Alabama Safety is just lined up in the wrong spot and doesn’t cover the route. There isn’t magic in this system. It’s the same on Heupel ran at Mizzou. It’s the same one he read last year. Bama just had an AWFUL day on defense. 

Bama Clip 150 - Hooker only has a 58.5% adjusted completion on 10-19 yard throws. Here is one where he doesn’t get hit but the OL gets bull rushed into his lap and he throws high and it’s an INT. He is easily affected

Bama Clip 158 - Hyatt has so many deep balls on tape that teams tend to play him soft. It creates some easy opportunities for him to work comeback routes in the slot. 

Bama Clip 160 - Bama just lets the same guy run free on the back end over and over and over. It’s astounding how bad they were in coverage with Hyatt. Christopher Smith and Malaki Starks are way better than that. On the year Hyatt has 48 REC’s on 55 TGT’s. He lines up in the slot 90.9% of the time. 

How You Stop Tennessee’s Offense

Pitt Clip 13 - Take away Hooker’s first read... Against Pitt you see him play an interior DL that he actually fears/respects. The Panthers had 19 pressures against the Vols. When Hooker looks down field and doesn’t see his first read open he puts his head down after a couple of seconds. Pitt’s DL didn’t try to rush him in a lot of situations. They tried to collapse the middle and take away his lanes. 

Pitt Clip 14 - 3rd & 10 and Pitt brings 6 pass rushers. They bring an extra rusher off of each edge and their DT’s collapse onto Hooker when he steps up into the pocket. Once again… They cover the first read. With Hooker sometimes it is better to try and be waiting in the middle when he puts his head down to run than it is to try and sack him. UGA’s linebackers will spy and they will have to be disciplined about when they take off towards him. The rule will be that they do not rush upfield towards the QB unless they know they can make the sack. 

Pitt Clip 18 - If you play scared against Tennessee you’ll create scary situations. Bama gave the Vols massive free releases. On some of UT’s explosive passes their WR’s had 12-15 yard free releases. On the flipside, Pittsburgh manned up on the outside and played physical press coverage. Pitt’s DB’s always had inside leverage and they pressed the outside receivers into the boundaries. Make Hooker throw perfect passes down the sidelines and he becomes a much less threatening QB. Against PItt he went 3/10 for 121 YDS and 2 TD’s on 20+ yard throws. On the season he’s completing 50% of passes over 20 YDS. I attribute that drop in completion percentage to Pitt forcing Hooker to throw outside the hashes when going deep. Only 2 of his 10 attempts over 20 YDS were between the hashes and neither of those were completions. Pitt did a good job with Hyatt using its safeties. 

Pitt Clip 23 - You see Heupel run the ball a lot around midfield when the Vols are facing 3rd & mediums. Pitt knows it and they’re ready when UT hands it off. That’s not unusual, but Pitt just whips the Vols at the line of scrimmage and stops the run. 

Pitt Clip 24 - Now it’s 4th & 3… The Vols get to the line of scrimmage quickly and they motion like they always do. They see Pitt is in Man Coverage and they go double slants. Hooker wants the slant to the Slot WR but it’s not there because Pitt has played inside technique over the Slot. You can see presnap that the Slot CB is going to do anything but give up an inside crossing route. What do we know about Hooker? He doesn’t do well when his first read is not open. Next he goes to the outside WR #4 Cedric Tillman on a slant. Pitt is all over it. It’s a tight window and the ILB is dropping back into it as well. 

Pitt Clip 31 - Tennessee gets 6 yards on 1st down. They hurry to the line and it is 2nd & 4. Pitt knows what’s coming… Inside Zone Run. Their DT’s jump the gaps and blow it up for no gain. It’s the type of thing that Carter, Brinson, Alexander, Ingram-Dawkins, etc. should be able to do more often than not.

Pitt Clip 89 - Pitt didn’t let Hooker sit back and pick them apart. They blitzed him. Hooker does not see delayed blitzes particularly well. That lane the Pitt LB fills is the type of lane UGA’s spies usually will step up into. The defensive call isn’t a delayed blitz, but it functions like one when the spy takes off. I expect Hooker and Tennessee’s OL to struggle with that on Saturday. Hooker is so presnap focused that he often doesn’t check thing again post-snap. Once he gets the ball in his hands he stares down his first read. If you show blitz and drop a player into zone you can confuse him. The same story is true if you make him think a player is dropping into coverage and then bring them on a delayed pass rush. He’s 100% locked into the rules of Heupel’s system. That can be used against him. 

Pitt Clip 128 - Pitt stopped Tennessee’s run on early downs and it put them into 3rd & long. Once they were there, Pitt brought pass rushers and let its secondary sit back towards the 1st down markers. Hooker didn’t have windows to throw into at the sticks- Pitt’s defense was sitting there waiting to jump the routes. Hooker was under too much pressure to wait for the UT WR’s to clear open further downfield… The 3rd down scheme is good, but it’s the run stopping on early downs that creates it. 

Tennessee Defense

Bama Clip 44 - Gotta stay out of 3rd and long against UT. They will just tee off on their blitzes. They go wide open and sell out. 

Bama Clip 52 & Clip 53 - Bama’s OL isn’t great but they made some nice creases on the interior against UT’s defense. ILB #10 Juwan Mitchell misplays the run fit and comes down into the wrong hole. He has a missed tackle percentage of 14.3% on run plays and he misses some plays. Safety #1 Trevon Flowers hesitates a bit. He misses tackles 28% of the time in run defense. This isn’t a missed tackle but he isn’t a great run defender who is making plays that are failures for the offense.

Bama Clip 56 - The best TE that UT has faced this year was Latu. He had 6 REC/8 TGT for 90 YDS against the Vols. Bama was able to work him really well on intermediate throws. His Avg Depth of Target was 8.9 YDS. Those are chain mover type plays. 

Bama Clip 60 - The Tide had a lot of success off the left side of their offensive line. UT really struggled on runs where Gibbs would cutback or stretch them out wide. These DE/Edge players for Tennessee do not do a good job of setting the edge in the run game. They get washed out a lot. As a general rule, their best pass rushers are also their worst run defenders. In a lot of substitution decisions they’re in a damned if they do damned if they don’t type of situation. The Edge on this play is #19 Joshua Josephs. He has more missed tackles against the run this year than tackles. 

Bama Clip 65 - The Vols show blitz a lot when the opponent is inside the 10. Sometimes they rush, but others they drop back and get their hands up to bat the pass like they do on this play. It’s important to be able to run the ball in the red zone to keep UT from making you one dimensional 

Bama Clip 74 - The Tide had a lot of success throwing to the HB’s out of the backfield. Not so much swing passes as checkdowns and plays where the HB sneaks out on a delayed route. Bama RB’s had 10 TGT/8 REC for 70 YDS. 

Bama Clip 102 & 103 - Alabama hit a lot of deep crossing routes against UT. That’s a concept that Georgia uses a lot. Bama had a lot of success working across the field on long crossers against man coverage. They picked on Safety #0 Doneiko Slaughter over the slot a lot. Slaughter isn’t one of UT’s higher coverage snap count guys. He’s only given up 2 receptions all year but both happened against Bama. 

Bama Clip 104 - Alabama targets Latu on a Corner Route while lined up as an Inline TE. Tennessee LB #33 Jeremy Banks is in coverage. Bama targeted Banks 3 times for 3 receptions and 48 YDS. If UGA has Bowers or Washington matched up on him in man coverage it is advantage UGA. Generally speaking, these UT linebackers are poor in pass coverage. 

LB #33 Jeremy Banks - 3 Penalties, 28 TGT/20 REC, 71.4 Rec % Allowed, 233 YDS allowed, 11.7 YPC, 174 YDS After Catch allowed, Avg Depth of Target = 5.9 YDS

LB #24 Aaron Beasley - 2 Penalties, 14 TGT/12 REC, 85.7 Rec % Allowed, 132 YDS allowed, 11.0 YPC, 66 YDS After Catch allowed, Avg Depth of Target = 6.2 YDS

LB #10 Juwan Mitchell - 10 TGT/9 REC, 90.0 Rec % allowed, 87 YDS allowed, 9.7 YPC, 48 YDS After Catch allowed, Avg Depth of Target = 6.2 YDS

Bama Clip 123 & Clip 124 - Safety #1 Trevon Flowers missing a tackle again in the open field against the run. If you can get to the 2nd level there is opportunity to bust big plays in the run game. Bama is hitting the left side of the OL again here. If a UGA running back meets Flowers in the open field on a rush attempt that’s good news for Georgia. Flowers isn’t great against the pass either. He has 20 TGT/15 REC for 140 YDS this year. 

Bama Clip 132 - Here CB #12 Tamarion McDonald gets hit on the slant. He has given up 32 REC on 40 TGT’s this year for 254 YDS. He’s not very good. He’s the UT CB who has taken the most coverage snaps this year and he has allowed a Reception Percentage of 80%. That’s a big YIKES for the Vols. 

Bama Clip 133 - Very next play and McDonald misplays the swing pass. He misses the tackle and it breaks open for a first down. 

Bama Clip 167 - #6 Byron Young comes free on some downs against Alabama. He is UT’s best pass rusher on the Edge and has 33 pressures on the year, which leads the team. Interior Lineman #21 Omari Thomas ultimately makes the sack of the QB. Thomas has 13 pressures on the season, but Young is the guy UGA has to block on Saturday. The good news for UGA is that Young is a poor run defender. Monken can hunt him some in the run game when he is on the field, and he is on the field quite a lot. 

Bama Clip 170 - Tennessee will bust some coverages of their own. On a 4th quarter play they just let Jojo Earle run totally unguarded down the sideline for a huge gain on 2nd & 24. They have tried a lot of different combos in the secondary this year and none of them have been particularly successful against better passing teams. They play a lot of Zone Coverage on the back end. If your WR’s are running deeper routes and you have good protection you can let those wideouts kind of clear the secondary out and then hit a RB or TE on a delayed route. In a lot of scenarios they are left with a nice chunk of open field to work in. 

Pitt Clip 15 - Look at this defense get gashed in the run. They have gotten better since then, but they really haven’t played many games where the opponent was able to be two-dimensional into the last third of the game. Against UF, Bama and Pitt they were in closer games. Those offenses were able to do a lot down the stretch because UT was tiring out. There has been a lot of talk about how this Vols rushing defense is good. I think they are better at defending run than pass, but they have faced an outsized percentage of pass plays because teams are often playing from behind against them. If you run the ball against Tennessee even when it’s not an obvious running down you can hit them for some big plays. It is key to stay committed to a good run/pass balance even if you fall behind by two scores. Keeping them in run/pass conflict is the best way to score on them. 

Final Analysis & Score Prediction

The media has gotten so hot and bothered by Tennessee beating Alabama that many pundits are convinced the Vols will walk all over the Bulldogs. You can’t swing a dead raccoon without hitting a “Hooker for Heisman” take or a “The 2022 Vols are 2019 LSU” comparison. The Vols are #1 in the first CFP rankings. The media loves them. Analysts are calling them unstoppable. Only one problem…

Vegas looked across that landscape and hung UGA -9 as its opening line on Sunday afternoon. As of Wednesday night one website said that 93% of the public dollars are on the Vols. Despite that, Vegas has only let this spread creep to 8. They DO NOT want to hang UGA -7, and my Dad always said they didn’t get all of that concrete and air conditioning in the Nevada desert by mistake. 

First thought… Tennessee has been phenomenal this year. They also could easily be 5-2 and looked fairly pedestrian against the best defensive line they faced when they went to Pittsburgh. If they were to win the National Title they would be the first team with a Blue-Chip Ratio under 50% to ever do so. UT’s roster is only 31% blue-chippers. In terms of how they’re made up, the Vols have a lot more similarities to the 2014 Mississippi State team who opened at #1 when the first CFP rankings came out than they do to 2019 LSU. There’s not NFL players on every level of this team. Georgia on the other hand does have future pros all over its roster. 79% of this team is former four and five-star recruits. 

The tempo that the UT offense runs is a cheat code of sorts in college football. It eliminates the ability to substitute and it is designed to create busted coverages. That happens more so through catching a CB who is staring at the sideline for a play call with his pants down than it does through scheme. This scheme is not a new invention. Heupel was running it at Missouri in 2018 when the Tigers scored 29 on UGA. Giving up that many points to anyone is something Kirby Smart loses sleep over, and he studied the offense during the following offseason. 

There are two things that hurt this Tennessee scheme. The first is A & B-Gap pressure from DT’s and ILB’s. The second is boundary CB’s who possess the size to play press coverage and fight through blocks well enough to tackle WR Screen plays. The good news for Georgia is that they have both of those. 

UGA will have to stop the run with just 5 or 6 men in the box at times. I think they’ll win a lot more of those battles than they lose. Jalen Carter is that good, and all of the intel we’ve gotten this week points to him playing a full game. Tennessee’s Guards Javontez Spraggins and Jerome Carvin have been the weak point on this OL as run blockers. Center Cooper Mays has graded out better as a run blocker, but he hasn’t seen anything like UGA’s interior lineman.

Darnell Wright is a solid pass blocker at Tackle, but the rest of this UT offensive line has been middling. They haven’t given up a ton of pressures but that’s more a product of their system. Get them into obvious passing situations and they can/will let pass rushers into the backfield. Dumas-Johnson, Mondon and the rest of the UGA LB’s can penetrate into this backfield. They should also be able to spy Hooker well. He is by no means easy to sack or bring down in the open field, but he is much easier to corral than Richardson was last week.

On the outside, I think Lassiter and Ringo can do a good enough job of keeping these UT wideouts pressed into the boundaries. I expect Javon Bullard, Malaki Starks and Christopher Smith to control the middle of the field well enough and play a lot of inside technique. If Hooker can hit long throws outside the numbers over and over then so be it, but make things hard on this offense by taking away all of the little in-breaking routes they run. Even if UGA busts a coverage, I just don’t see them letting Hyatt beat them over and over or anyone else for that matter. If Heupel finds a matchup he likes in the back end then Smart will adjust quickly with personnel changes. 

I think Georgia can win against the Tennessee run game and put this team into more 3rd & long situations than they have seen all season. When they do the Bulldogs will get pressure, and Hooker does not deal with pressure well. That’s not unusual for any quarterback, but Hooker hasn’t faced much pressure at all this year. It will put him off rhythm. As I said in the notes above, he is an ENTIRELY different quarterback if his first read isn’t open. I think UGA can speed up his clock by getting to him a couple times early in this game. If they do, he may start taking his eyes off his WR’s and putting them onto Georgia’s pass rushers as soon as he doesn’t see his first read available. Heupel will counter with screens and other underneath routes to get him back on rhythm but that will play into Georgia’s hands even further. I will not be surprised if we see an interception from Trezmen Marshall or another Georgia LB on Saturday. 

Tennessee has scored on every “goal-to-go” scenario they have been in this year. Statistical variance and Georgia’s defensive personnel say that is bound to change. There’s no shutting this offense down entirely, but Georgia can hold UT into the 20’s or the low-30’s. They can do it by playing Red Zone roulette and winning inside their own 20 more often than not. If they get an early lead and Heupel decides to go for some 4th downs because he feels like he needs to score 7 to stay in this thing then this game could get sideways quickly. 

Far too little attention has been paid this week to Georgia’s offense. The Bulldogs put up 500 yards every game without looking like they’re really trying to. They’ve stayed vanilla for most of the year but they have produced more 12+ yards runs and 16+ yard passes this year than the Vols have. A lot of talk has been made this week about the lack of long explosive TD’s from Georgia of late. Frankly, that is a bit stupid to bring up in this particular game. The Bulldogs want to control the ball and embark on long drives. That is what they have done all year and I expect them to do it again. 

Up front, Georgia should control the line of scrimmage and stay on schedule. The Vols like to blitz on 3rd & long. Monken knows that and he has blitz beaters. Go back up and look at the coverage stats on those Tennessee LB’s. Their Safeties have not been great either. If UT wants to blitz away then UGA will make them pay with Its RB’s and TE’s and by working slants underneath. 

Georgia’s screen/swing pass game has been one of the best in college football this year, and I expect them to deploy it on Saturday early just to remind the Vols what is going to happen if they commit too many men to rushing the passer. Georgia’s perimeter blocking from its WR’s and TE’s will be a big deal in this game.

Above all, I trust Todd Monken in this spot and I trust Georgia at the point of attack. The playbook will be opened wide on Saturday and UGA will control this game with its offensive line. 

I’ve given you the X&O analysis, but I’ve gotta say that I feel like this game might be a bit of a hornet’s nest for the Vols. For as great as UT has been, playing to upset #1 and going on the road as #1 when everyone in the media is pumping sunshine onto you are two different things. This team has not seen an environment like this all year and they have not seen a team as good as Georgia. Add in the burden of having something to lose and I get some of the same vibes that I had when UGA traveled to Auburn in 2017 after being ranked 1st in the initial CFP rankings that year. 

On the UGA side, this team is pissed. There is a feeling that they have yet to play 60 minutes of focused and intense football all year. They have been cruising along, but they showed last week that they can flip the switch when they need to. If they get a really good game out of Stetson Bennett it’s hard to see a way they lose. All of the slights that have been handed to them as motivation this week have this team ready to make a statement, and they are experienced enough to know how to channel that motivation properly. 

Georgia wins, and it won’t be particularly close in the end. 


  • Like 2
  • Fire 16
  • Heart 1


Recommended Comments

There are no comments to display.

  • Create New...