Oct. 1, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- When the No. 6 Georgia Bulldogs roll into Knoxville this weekend they'll contend with more than 100,000 Big Orange fans itching to knock off their first ranked opponent since defeating No. 21 South Carolina in 2009.
To do so, they'll have to beat a Mark Richt-coached team that highlights outstanding running backs and a quarterback who could play on Sundays according to Tennessee head coach Butch Jones.
While the task may seem tall, some will also be challenged by their hometown fans.
Twenty-one players on UT's roster are from Georgia. For this large chunk of Vols players, the game will highlight their former homestate team against their current team and future alma mater.
It doesn't seem to faze those players from the Peach State. On Wednesday several of them talked about facing the Bulldogs.
"A lot of people from back home are Georgia fans but since I came up here, they have been great Vol fans as well," said junior linebacker A.J. Johnson who is from Gainesville, Ga.
Johnson is one of six starting defensive players from Georgia. Nine out of 22 Volunteer starters listed on the Tennessee two-deep depth chart are from somewhere in Georgia.
Senior Rajion Neal went to high school in Fayetteville, Ga. He'll strap up Saturday coming off a career game against South Alabama.
"No. I can't lie. The state of Georgia definitely supports the Bulldogs and I grew up very aware of what they had and the great program they have, but we're a Tennessee family now," he said.
The common theme throughout the players who were asked is that while they may have grown up there, Knoxville is just as much as a home to them.
Ja'Wuan James will be making is 43rd start on Saturday. He went to high school at North Gwinnett High School and lived in Suwanee, Ga., just over 30 miles outside of Atlanta.
With this as his last year, he's focused on beating the Bulldogs - something he's never done before.
"Playing UGA, I haven't beaten them yet," James said. "I'd like to go out with my senior year and beat them. There's a lot of pride involved whenever I got back home. I know a bunch of guys on the team and things like that. We just want to go out there, play as hard as we can and try to get the win.
"We just have to play our own football. We're going to have to play Tennessee tough and up to our standard. Everything else will take care of itself."