Tennessee defense must force Hutson Mason to be deciding factor
Hutson Mason is a game manager. Although that may seem like an insult to some, its helped the senior quarterback succeed this season.
Replacing all-time SEC leading passer Aaron Murray, Mason finally took the reins of No. 12 Georgia’s offense this season. However, with a run-heavy scheme, there hasn’t been much pressure on the first-year starter.
Mason enters Saturday’s game with 419 yards and four touchdowns on 42-of-59 passing. He also holds a 71.2 completion percentage and a 153.22 passer rating.
Georgia has looked dominant in every game outside of its 38-35 heartbreaker to No. 13 South Carolina. That was the only instance in which Mason faced a deficit in the fourth quarter.
For Tennessee to pull off an upset Saturday, its defense must force Mason to be the deciding factor. Obviously, Georgia’s running game will get the focus early. If the trio of Todd Gurley, Sony Michel and Nick Chubb grab an early lead, the Vols are in deep trouble. However, if somehow the Tennessee defense can slow down the three-headed monster, they may be able to take momentum.
The Vols’ defense has talented linebackers and an inexperienced line. The matchup between A.J. Johnson and Gurley is the most glaring entering Saturday. It wouldn’t be wise to assume Gurley won’t see a strong performance, but Tennessee must force the issue.
If the game is in Mason’s hands, Tennessee benefits. The Vols secondary is improved and holds an advantage over a Georgia receiving group lacking its best two players.
For all the doubt the young Tennessee players receive for a lack of experience, Mason is far from a seasoned veteran. Mason has started in just two SEC games and is 1-1 for his career.
The jury is still out on Mason outside of being a solid game manager. For the Vols to have a chance at an upset, they must force Mason to be the deciding factor and slow one of the nation’s best rushing attacks early in the contest.