Tennessee Stat Book
Recap: Akron at Tennessee
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Tennessee will soon get another shot to take down a nationally ranked team. Maybe even four of them.
The Vols' loss to Florida nine days ago was the team's 12th consecutive loss to a ranked opponent, including an 0-for-11 stretch under third-year coach Derek Dooley. The Vols have lost 18 of 19 to Top 25 teams since 2008.
The good news after the disappointing showing against the Gators? The Vols will get a chance to redeem themselves in six days at Georgia.
The bad news? The Georgia game is just the first.
One day after dispatching Akron with slightly more trouble than might have been expected, the Vols began to prepare Sunday for a grueling four-game stretch that will test its goal of forging a turnaround season in 2012.
Tennessee (3-1, 0-1 SEC) will face three of the current six top teams in the nation, starting Saturday at No. 5 Georgia (4-0, 2-0). The game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. and will be televised by CBS.
The Vols also play games against No. 1 Alabama and No. 6 South Carolina. The "breather" after Georgia and before those two games is a trip to No. 21 Mississippi State.
All four teams are undefeated.
Two weeks ago, Tennessee was undefeated and in the Top 25, ranked for the first time in more than four years. But a dismal finish against Florida on Sept. 15 pushed the Vols out of the rankings and into a familiar position — trying to earn their way back to their old perch at or near the top of the SEC East.
After shaky performances in Week 1, Georgia and South Carolina have done
little to diminish their status as the teams to beat in the East.
South Carolina beat Missouri Saturday in a game that wasn't even as close as its 31-10 score. Georgia amassed 567 total yards and spanked Vanderbilt 48-3. The Bulldogs have scored 40 or more points in four consecutive games for the first time in school history.
Dooley said during Florida week that the games only get bigger as the season goes on. The next big one is Saturday.
"We'll see how we handle it," Dooley said Saturday. "We play a heck of a team next week. (Georgia) and a couple others are going to be contending for it all. They have the ability to. I hope we learn and grew (since Florida), but we won't really know until we get back in there in our league."
A pesky Akron squad hung around for three quarters on Saturday, but by the end the Vols were moving the ball easily and the Zips were overwhelmed and exhausted.
"That's always a confidence boost when you're able to perform well in the fourth quarter, especially knowing next week we have a rivalry and it is going to be an away game," said Tennessee center James Stone. "We're going to need that grit when we're going onto an opponent's field."
Dooley said he was generally pleased with the win — more pleased, perhaps, than fans who were sweating the 30-26 lead early in the fourth quarter — but he harped on two turnovers by the offense and the one big play allowed by the defense.
The 70-yard touchdown run by Quentin Hines just before halftime was the Zips only offensive touchdown of the game. Subtract that one-play "drive," and Akron had 274 yards of offense on 74 plays (3.7 yards per play). The Vols had 633 yards on 89 plays (7.1).
Tennessee is averaging 513 yards per game on offense, 17th best in the country. The Bulldogs are 13th, averaging 530 per game.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.