Bulldogs look to keep train rolling against struggling Volunteers
Obviously the Georgia Bulldogs and Tennessee Volunteers enter this game from completely different stages in life, so to speak. The Dawgs are now perennial powers and regulars to contending for the College Football Playoff. The Vols are still in rebuild mode, not having had a winning season since 2016.
Both teams had last Saturday off to recuperate from a pair of tough games. The Bulldogs are coming off that 23-17 win over Notre Dame which was such an emotional knock-down, drag-out struggle. A week off to recoup is just what the doctor ordered for the Volunteers as well as they were pummeled by Florida, 34-3. At 1-3, this has been a big orange mess since the first opening kickoff.
Georgia at Tennessee
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Georgia -25
When Georgia Has the Ball
Open up the playbook. The Bulldogs seemed to play a very conservative game vs. Notre Dame, which might have more to do with the competition than anything else. But as SEC play kicks in, they'll need to diversify and get more creative. As the venerable Tim Tebow opined after the win over the Irish, "I was unimpressed. I thought they were so conservative. I think they really hamstring Jake Fromm and some of these running backs, especially D'Andre Swift." I know Bulldog fans don't want to listen to a former Gator, so maybe the coaches will.
Well... go ahead and pound the rock. Yes open up the playbook, but don't forget to have those stable of backs get their carries because it's highly likely the Dawgs should be able to impose their will here. Tennessee is 12th in the SEC in run defense, giving up 150 yards per game on the ground against teams with admittedly weak running attacks. Swift has only had one 100-yard game this season (147 in the opener at Vanderbilt), but this game screams for him to get 20-plus carries and rack up some yards.
Take care of the ball, no blunders in the kicking game. Tennessee's only chance to keep it close or pull a stunning upset is to get turnovers. The Bulldogs helped Notre Dame stay in the game with a bad fumble and some shanked punts. Georgia has committed just four turnovers in four games, so Kirby Smart's team has done a good job. Just don't get butterfingers here. Oh and tell Jake Camarda to get more oomph on his punts.
When Tennessee Has the Ball
Settle on a quarterback. Oi vey. This hasn't been good. Head coach Jeremy Pruitt is being cagey on who his QB will be by saying "We're not going to give Georgia a scouting report of what we're going to do." Four-game starter Jarrett Guarantano got benched to start the second half of that big loss to Florida, replaced by freshman Brian Maurer. Fellow frosh J.T. Shrout has also seen limited action this season. Common sense says Guarantano has got to be the answer, having hit 65 percent of his passes with seven TDs and four interceptions. Just don't be surprised by a quick hook in this game.
By all means, hit up the tight ends. You all saw what Notre Dame's Cole Kmet did to the Junkyard Dogs, right? The Irish tight end was practically the only offensive threat, gathering nine catches and a touchdown. Considering the Irish managed just 46 rushing yards against the fourth-ranked rush defense, it might also behoove the Volunteer offense to hit up the passing game a tad more. Especially if it can be short, sharp, safe routes to help build Guarantano's confidence early on.
Go for the corners. The Bulldogs have had some issues with their cornerbacks as Tyson Campbell didn't dress out for the Notre Dame game and fellow starter Eric Stokes did not play longer than the opening series due to a knee injury. D.J. Daniel (junior) and Tyrique Stevenson (freshman) did a commendable job vs. the Irish, but the Volunteer wideouts should be a bigger challenge. In addition, Campbell, Stokes and Daniel are all questionable for this week.
I can't help it. Every time I think about Georgia-Tennessee I get visions of Hershel Walker bowling over Bill Bates in his first college game. I just do. It was a historic debut for one of college football's best players ever. But I digress.
Look, a team from the peanut state has already won in Knoxville this season, Georgia State back in Week 1. So if the little brother Panthers can take down the Vols, you have to figure the Bulldogs will have an easier time. Only poor focus can derail them here.
Prediction: Georgia 35, Tennessee 13
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.