With the Dawgs riding a three-game winning streak and now improbably tied for the division lead with Florida and South Carolina, things were going so well for the Manic-Depressive Preview duo that some color was returning to Depressive Doug's face and he even cracked a joke the other day. Then someone reminded him the Dawgs were going up to Knoxville this weekend and he closed his eyes, rubbed the bridge of his nose as if he were in severe pain and called his therapist to have his Celexa prescription re-upped. Why so serious, buddy? Perhaps he and his Manic counterpart can explain for us.
Manic Doug: Nahh, but don't worry, dude, I've got time. We're not leaving until tomorrow afternoon.
DD: In my experience, when you say "I've got time" it roughly translates to "I'm going to sit on the couch with a tumbler of Maker's Mark and play Mario Kart all evening, and I'll be frantically cramming stuff in a suitcase five minutes before we're supposed to be heading out the door."
MD: OK, number one, stop snooping around in my day planner. Number two, why are you being so uptight about this? This is a football trip. It's supposed to be fun.
DD: It's real sweet of you to try and reassure me like that, but once we're in the heart of SEC season, those two things often become mutually exclusive.
MD: Come on, we're gonna go up there, kick the Vols around the field a little, and help Mark Richt celebrate his 100th win . . .
DD: You sound awfully sure about that.
MD: Why wouldn't I? We've got a superior quarterback; a budding superstar of a running back who's going up against a very green defensive line; some emerging playmakers at receiver . . .
DD: Why does this all sound so familiar? -- Oh, right, it's the exact same stuff we were saying before the 2007 game, when we went up to Knoxville and got absolutely humiliated.
MD: Ahem, meanwhile, the Vols have yet to notch a conference win, their quarterback is known for being erratic in big games, their entire roster is thin because they're still feeling the effects of those lousy recruiting years under Fulmer and Kiffin . . .
DD: Ahh, and there's the stuff we were saying right before the 2009 game, when we went up to Knoxville and got humiliated even worse than we did in '07. We're really breaking out the classics today, aren't we?
MD: You act like nothing at all has changed since those games happened. You don't think our defense can possibly keep that from happening this time around? We're barely allowing 100 yards a game on the ground and 150 through the air -- that's a far cry from when we let Jonathan Crompton have his Flowers for Algernon transformation into Peyton Manning and throw all over us.
DD: Well, I'm impressed at your literary allusion there, kiddo. And no, we're not going to let Jonathan Crompton make fools out of us this weekend, because he's not on the roster anymore. Unfortunately, Tyler Bray is, and he's really, really good . . .
MD: Look, I'll be honest with you: I've got a soft spot in my heart for Baby Bray, as I would for any QB who has a crazy-ass back tat and likes to goof around on the field in full view of the refs. But the jury's still out on him, because he still hasn't put it together in a big game. I mean, everybody made such a big deal about him going 4-0 and throwing for all those yards down the stretch at the end of the regular season last year, but the guy was going up against Memphis, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Kentucky -- I could've passed for 300 yards a game against those stiffs. And the lovefest has continued into 2011, but his wins have come against Montana, Cincinnati and Buffalo. Meanwhile, in the Vols' one actual challenge of the season so far, he threw two picks, had -23 yards rushing and nearly lost a fumble.
DD: Give the kid credit, though, he's been connecting on some nice throws even without Justin Hunter, who went out at the very beginning of the Florida game.
MD: Well, we'll see whether that continues. Da'Rick Rogers is a baller, but we're actually going to be getting up in their receivers' faces and trying to disrupt their routes this time, rather than just screwing around in soft zone coverage five yards off the receiver and hoping to eventually make a tackle. Another comforting break from Willie Martinez tradition.
DD: So you say. But I've heard those promises before. Just like I heard we were going to be leaving cleat marks all over their run defense in 2007 and '09.
MD: Well, it sounds like you've made up your mind that our offensive line is going to have another terrible game in the run-blocking department, but could you at least have some faith in Isaiah Crowell? He's already got three 100-yard games this season and would be working on four straight if we hadn't rested him so early in that blowout against Coastal Carolina. If Isaiah Pead and Chris Rainey can carve up their front seven, I see no reason why Crowell can't, particularly when they're starting two freshmen and two sophomores up there.
DD: Look, I really appreciate everything you're trying to do to cheer me up here, and I'd like to believe it. But I'm done swallowing happy pills the week before a trip up to Knoxville.
MD: Good Lord, you make this road trip sound like the freakin' Bataan Death March. It's a trip up to Knoxville, Tennessee, to face a team that'll probably be fortunate to win seven games this year. We're hardly talking about David vs. Goliath here -- if anything, it's David vs. David's skinny younger brother Stanley, who wore thick glasses and stayed inside reading comic books all day.
DD: OK, I'm no Biblical scholar, but I'm pretty sure that little family history you just outlined there goes against anything we learned in Sunday school.
MD: Whatever. You really think we're gonna get blown off the map this weekend?
DD: "Blown off the map," no. But for all their depth issues, their struggles in run-blocking and everything else, Tennessee's still got the athletes to make a game of this. Thinking back to how Kellen Moore carved us up with the short-to-medium passing game in the season opener, I think Tyler Bray's definitely skilled enough to do the same thing, and maybe even open it up a little with Da'Rick Rogers, who's shown off some chops as both a possession receiver and as a downfield threat. At best, we've got a slim halftime lead -- maybe a field goal or so -- but even if we do, we've gotten used to throttling our offense back in the second halves of games the last few weeks, and that's going to do us in this time around. While we're loafing around trying to burn off clock, Bray is sneaking passes behind our secondary, and before we know it we're down by a couple scores. Aaron Murray tries to lead a comeback, but tosses a late pick -- he three three against Missy State, we know he's capable, sadly -- that snuffs out our chances. Final score, Tennessee 34, Georgia 23.
MD: It's lucky I'm such a confident, charismatic, devilishly handsome guy or I'd need to go on antidepressants after reading some of these predictions you make.
DD: You want some? I just put a call in to the pharmacy --
MD: Oh, for God's sake, no. Fortunately for both of us, your doom and gloom doesn't stand a chance in hell of happening. Here's what's actually going to go down: Georgia keeps the Vols on their toes with the one-two punch of Murray and Crowell and gets into an offensive rhythm early. Meanwhile, Tennessee's not going to be able to get much going because their running game is ranked dead last in the SEC, so once we've neutralized that, we can go to town on pressuring Bray into some bad throws. I'm thinking we're up by 10 at halftime, and yeah, we've gone to sleep on offense in the second half the last two weeks, but that was because we were playing against bad offenses we knew didn't have the horsepower to mount any comebacks. This time around, playing against a decent offense in hostile territory, Richt and Bobo are going to pour it on and then ride Crowell and Carlton Thomas to the finish line. I don't think it's gonna be as big a blowout as last year, but Georgia 37, Tennessee 20 sounds pretty reasonable to me.
DD: Even with Cornelius Washington suspended? And Brandon Boykin banged up?
MD: I wouldn't worry about B-Boy. Just a couple loose teeth, nothing that's gonna keep him from winning the field position battle for us for the third week in a row, particularly with the Vols being fifth-worst n the nation in net punting. As for Cornelius, it sucks losing him for a couple weeks, but Jarvis Jones had a couple sacks last week too, and he's been an absolute beast for us all season long. Between him, John Jenkins and the possibility of Ray Drew finally getting to see some serious action, I wouldn't worry about our pass rush too much.
DD: Well, averaging up our two predictions, it looks like Georgia just squeaks by, 30-27.
MD: A three-point victory? That's it?
DD: Oh, God, what if that means the game is on Blair Walsh's shoulders at the very end? He's only made 50 percent of his field-goal attempts this season . . .
MD: Oh, boy, here we go. Look, I'll actually let you nag me incessantly about packing for the trip, if it'd calm you down some.
DD: Really? You'd do that for me?
MD: I don't want to, you understand, but anything's better than hearing you describe a third straight beatdown in Knoxville in excruciating detail. Here, I'll go to the kitchen, pour myself a drink, and when I come back I'm gonna flop down on the couch without any intention of doing anything and you can gripe at me for being irresponsible and leaving everything until the very last minute. Deal?
DD: You know, you may be an immature slacker who frequently seems to think he can use his charm to distract people from the fact that he's kind of a douchebag most of the time, but every once in a while you can be really generous, you know that?
MD: The only words I heard out of that entire sentence were "charm" and "generous," so thanks for that, bro.
DD: Don't mention it.