The Tennessee Volunteers (3-1, 0-1 SEC) are faring much better on the ground in 2012. Tennessee’s running game sputtered through much of last season. As the Volunteers prepare to visit the Georgia Bulldogs (4-0, 2-0 SEC) on Saturday for an SEC matchup, Georgia native Rajion Neal is leading a much-improved Tennessee running game.
Tennessee ranked last in rushing yards in SEC games last season. The Volunteers averaged only 63.5 yards per game against SEC rivals. Tennessee rushed for negative yardage in its game with Georgia last fall.
But the productive Neal is netting yards more often for the Volunteers these days. Neal is on pace to rush for over 1,00 yards this season. In four games, Neal has rushed for 356 yards and three touchdowns via 80 carries. He has accounted for over half of Tennessee’s rushing yardage. As a team, Tennessee has rushed for 690 yards, scoring seven touchdowns along the way.
To make the Tennessee offense more balanced, starting quarterback Tyler Bray (94-of-148) has passed for 1,301 yards and a dozen touchdowns in four games. Bray has only thrown three interceptions in nearly 150 pass attempts.
The Tennessee offense, much-improved running attack included, now faces its toughest test thus far this season. The Georgia defense has held four opponents to a total of 542 yards (135.yards per game). Four teams have combined to score only three rushing touchdowns against the Bulldogs. The Georgia defensive unit is giving up an average of 343.2 yards per game.
Tennessee has to have its running game producing early and often in the road game at Georgia. Many Tennessee fans are quick to point out that the Volunteers own an edge over Georgia in games played at Sanford Stadium, leading the Georgia-based portion of the all-time series 10-9.