Bulldogs look to get back on track against reeling Volunteers
Georgia and Tennessee are two tradition-rich college football programs that have been going in opposite directions for a long time. In the last 10 years Georgia has an SEC record of 56-26, while Tennessee’s combined conference mark is 26-55. And this year doesn’t look any different as the Bulldogs come into Saturday’s game with a 4-0 mark, a No. 2 national ranking and appear to be in good shape to make another run at the College Football Playoff. Meanwhile the Volunteers look to be sinking fast, coming off a putrid performance at home to Florida last week.
Georgia has already cleared its first two road hurdles on the way to defending their SEC title, winning at the two Columbias – at South Carolina in week two and outscoring Missouri 43-29 last week. The Volunteers are 2-2, with victories over FCS opponent East Tennessee State and winlees UTEP sandwiched between two blowout losses to West Virginia and the Gators.
Tennessee at Georgia
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 29 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Georgia -32.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Fromm Georgia with love
With running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel now gone, along with top receiving target Javon Wims, this year’s Bulldog offense lands slightly heavier on the shoulders of QB Jake Fromm. But he has excelled in his second year, having completed 50 of his 69 passes for nine touchdowns and two picks. His QB rating has increased from 160.1 last year as a freshman to 199.7 this year. Georgia has seen wideout Mecole Hardman take a step up so far (14 catches, four TDs) , while Jeremiah Holloman (six catches, 29 ypr) and Riley Ridley (13 catches, three TDs) have made big strides as well. This should be a good game for Fromm to pad his stats.
2. Is Georgia’s defense vulnerable?
If there is one thing the Volunteers can take away from watching film of Missouri’s offense vs. Georgia, it’s that they showed a few warts. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Mizzou had Drew Lock back behind center and a better O-line. But that’s where UT’s Jarrett Guarantano comes to the fore. The sophomore signal-caller is a tough-as-nails type of kid and will have to play the best game of his career in a Big Orange uni. Speaking of, keep an eye on the pass protection for UT. The Dawgs have just three sacks all season and will need to amp up the pressure vs. the Volunteers.
3. Ah, no worries, the Georgia defense will play better
It’s a little strange to chastise the Junkyard Dogs, considering they had two returns for TDs and three takeaways vs. Missouri. But they also gave up some yards and points to that potent Mizzou offense. Head coach Kirby Smart grumbled about his defense relenting 172 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. While UT has a chance if they can hold onto the ball, the Bulldogs have spent this week emphasizing getting back to playing with the toughness they did in their first three games. Look for the Silver Britches to strap it up a little tighter this week on the defensive side of the ball. Poor Tennessee, they’re in the crosshairs of an angry Bulldog defense.
With Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt and Georgia head coach Kirby Smart having been on Nick Saban’s Alabama staff together for six years there is certainly no lack of familiarity between these two teams. It’s just going to come down to effort and talent, which means advantage Bulldogs. Heavily so.
In the first half last week against Florida, the Vols went for it on a pair of fourth-down plays and also attempted a surprise onside kick. None of those plays worked out well but expect the Volunteers to really pull out all the stops this week, taking some chances and relying on some prestidigitation. Anything to try to even out the talent disparity. To be truthful, after UT fumbled the second-half kickoff last week and Florida went up 33-3 on the next play, the Vols looked like a dispirited team. Here’s to hoping there is no hangover effect.
Prediction: Georgia 52, Tennessee 14
— 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.