Tennessee played so poorly in a loss at Missouri, Vols coach Josh Heupel questioned the late-game effort of a few players.
He did it in a veiled way, saying “some’’ players kept playing hard in the second half.
Some? What about the others?
Tennessee suffered another SEC road loss under Heupel.
The Vols also suffered another loss under Heupel when trailing by more than 10 points.
So, which is the bigger concern? Road defeats? Or the inability to come back from a double-digit deficit?
This season, Tennessee has lost by 29 at Missouri, lost by 14 at Alabama after leading 20-7 and lost by 13 at Florida. The Vols played well in the first half at Alabama, fairly well in the second half against Florida and miserable in both halves against Missouri.
Last year, the Vols blew a chance to make the College Football Playoffs with a 63-38 spanking at South Carolina.
UT’s other 2022 loss was at Georgia.
In 2021, Tennessee lost at Florida and Alabama.
But Heupel has had some success on the road. The Vols lapped LSU – the eventual SEC West Division champs — 40-13 last season. They have won twice at Kentucky and once at Pitt, Missouri and Vanderbilt.
Heupel’s road record at Tennessee is 6-7.
How has Heupel done at UT when the Vols trailed by more than 10 points?
How about 0-10.
You would think with a high-powered, quick-strike attack that overcoming a two-score deficit would be in the cards at some point. It hasn’t.
UT has lost by double digits under Heupel twice to Georgia, Alabama and Florida, and once to South Carolina, Missouri, Ole Miss and Pitt.
UT is also 1-10 uner Heupel when trailing at halftime. The only victory was over Texas A&M this season.
Clearly, Tennessee is better on the road than rallying from a deficit of more than 10 points.
That brings us to Tennessee hosting Georgia this Saturday (3:30 pm CBS).
The 18th ranked Vols (7-3) are coming off an embarrassing loss at Missouri.
No. 1 Georgia (10-0) is coming off consecutive impressive wins over Florida, Missouri and Ole Miss.
Unless you have an elite team, it’s hard to get up for three games in a row, much less four. Perhaps these Bulldogs are elite.
Georgia has spent emotional energy the last three games against a rival and two ranked opponents.
Is there still emotional gas left in the tank for a trip to Neyland Stadium, where UT has won 14 in a row?
Perhaps, but I don’t expect Georgia to be as sharp against Tennessee as it was the previous three contests.
Georgia quarterback Carson Beck has developed into one of the three best quarterbacks in the SEC. He is second in total offense (312.2 yards per game) and pass yards per game (302.2). He is third in pass efficiency having completed 231 of 320 passes (72.2%) for 3,022 yards and 18 touchdowns with five interceptions. He has thrown for over 300 yards in five of his last seven games.
Running back Daijun Edwards has played in only eight games, but he is averaging 5.6 yards per carry, 86.4 yards per game and has scored 10 touchdowns – fifth in the SEC.
And, gifted tight end Brock Bowers, who was out several weeks with ankle surgery, has returned.
Georgia’s offense is second in the SEC in points per game and total yards.
Georgia’s defense is the class of the SEC. It ranks first in points allowed (15.6 points per game), total defense (289.2 yards per game) and pass defense efficiency while being tied for first with 12 picks. It also allows opponents to complete an SEC-low 56.3% of their passes.
There is no reason to pick Tennessee, but there is reason for hope – if Georgia is uninspired and the Vols play their best game of the season.
Prediction: Georgia 30-17.