KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Josh Heupel is known for his explosive, up-tempo high-scoring offenses, but the Tennessee coach will tell you it all starts on the ground.
Likewise for Georgia coach Kirby Smart, who’s No. 1-ranked Bulldogs meet the No. 18-ranked Vols at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday in Neyland Stadium.
“The run game is kind of where everything has always started for us,” Heupel said during his press conference on Thursday. “I think each week forms its own identity a bit based on who you are and your personnel and what you’ve seen on the other side of the football too.
“Obviously, the run game for the most part of the season has been efficient and effective.”
The Vols rank seventh in the nation with 213.3 rushing yards per game — one spot ahead of Auburn, which averaged 207.2 yards rushing per game.
The Bulldogs beat the Tigers earlier in the season in Auburn, 27-20, but not before the Tigers rushed for twice as many yards as UGA, 219-107.
Smart has talked about the importance of the run game throughout the week, both offensively and defensively.
“They are not playing in a phone booth — they are playing in a big farm field,” Smart said, describing Heupel’s unique run game.
“They have everybody spread out, so when a run spits, it is going to go for a long way before somebody gets to it. Your ability to tackle and fit runs is exposed at a three-times the level.”