Derek Dooley comes to Athens for the first time as a head coach. His Volunteers will be playing their second straight SEC road game on Saturday when they face the Georgia Bulldogs. Dooley, the son of legendary Georgia head coach Vince Dooley, grew up in Athens and got his first coaching stint with the Bulldogs. But now, Dooley is the enemy in the Bulldog Nation’s eyes. Georgia has lost 4 in a row and are desperate for a win. Tennessee is coming off an embarrassing loss against LSU when they gave the Tigers an extra down by having 13 players on the field. LSU eventually scored on the next play in one of the most bizarre endings in college football history.
The Dawgs are also coming off of an embarrassing loss when Georgia’s RB Caleb King fumbled in the closing minutes as Georgia was in field goal range for the win. Georgia is trying to turn a nightmare season around as they have yet to beat an FBS team this season. Georgia WR A.J. Green returned in last week’s game against Colorado and was impressive with 2 TD catches, but his leg cramped up at halftime and he did not return. Though Green is expected to play in Saturday’s game.
While Dooley is in the coaching honeymoon period, the honeymoon is over for Georgia head coach Mark Richt. Even though Richt has won 2 SEC titles, the Bulldog faithful have been questioning the direction of the team especially after losing 7 of the last 9 SEC games over the past 2 seasons. It’s hard to imagine Georgia firing Richt even if he loses against the Volunteers especially with a hefty buyout reportedly around $8 million.
It’s going to be awkward for Dooley to enter Sanford Stadium from the visitor locker room. While his dad still has loyalty to Georgia (after all the UGA sports complex is named after him), his mom will be routing for the Volunteers. Georgia comes in as the overwhelming favorite and has more on the line than Tennessee. In addition, the Dawgs have more experience and A.J. Green.
Over the past decade, the loser of the Tennessee-Georgia game was usually out of the SEC East race so the game had importance. This year, the loser of Saturday’s game may not get bowl eligible. Both programs have fallen on hard times and the loser will face a tough hill to climb.
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Written by Bob Ballard