Oh my. Did you guys see that Georgia-Auburn game? Great googily mooley. Those Bulldogs didn’t just look like SEC title contenders, they looked like national title contenders. These dudes are freakin' scary with a capital YIKES.
But guess who has the longest winning streak in the country? Go ahead and guess...
Okay, I am sure you’ve already heard by now, but if you said Tennessee, then you win the free turkey. The Volunteers have won eight straight games and now sit at No. 14 in the country.
The series between these two is as tight as an industrial-sized vice with Georgia holding a 24-23-2 lead, having won the last three.
Tennessee at Georgia
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct 10 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Georgia -14
When Tennessee Has the Ball
The big uglies got an upgrade. One of the things that jumped off the screen while watching the Volunteers against Missouri is the dominating force of the offensive line. Four of the five root hogs up front are former five-star recruits, and it showed. The O-line was plowing good running lanes for the backs, as Tennessee ran for 232 yards on 51 attempts vs. the Tigers. This group is bolstered by the addition of Georgia transfer Cade Mays and has become the most improved area of the Vols. And yes, going up against Missouri and going up against Georgia will be a MAJOR difference.
The Gaurantano comfort level. Moving on to starting quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, he might be playing his best ball as a Vol right now. He has openly said that he "feels more comfortable than ever" at UT. Two big reasons that I see. One, that O-line we just talked about above giving him ample time in the pocket. And two, the fact that he finally has an offensive coordinator who carries over from the previous year. Jim Chaney is the OC for UT for the second year and he has gelled with Guarantano, putting him in more winnable situations. During their eight-game win streak, Guarantano is averaging 212 passing yards per game with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions.
But oh my, that Georgia defense. Everybody saw it last weekend: this is indeed an elite-level defense as they’ve got difference-makers at every level. The Junkyard Dogs are fifth in the FBS in total defense and have held their two opponents to a combined 50 yards on the ground while also allowing just nine conversions on 29 third-down plays. Guarantano and the passing game will be the biggest key to their making this one competitive.
When Georgia Has the Ball
Stetson Bennett is just fine. Yeah, it's true the Bulldogs have a stable of quarterbacks which Bennett had to navigate his way through to get the starting role. Pretty astounding. In a big top-10 showdown, he seemed like he was as comfortable as a man on a morning train to work. In the pocket, the redshirt junior looked like he had a steady pulse, no panic in his reads, no happy feet that forced him into poor decisions. Bennett finished the game with 240 yards, connecting on 17 of his 28 passes.
First down. One of the most surprising stats from the breezy win over Auburn was the fact that the Bulldogs averaged nearly seven yards per play on first down. Now THAT is how to open up the playbook and put an inexperienced quarterback at ease. Not to be redundant, but you could say that Georgia is just way more physical than its opponents. The Dawgs rushed for 202 yards overall but had 38 carries for 179 yards when running between the tackles.
This is a measuring stick for UT's defense. Now, the Big Orange has to put on their big boy pants because even though they are 21st nationally in total defense (361.5 ypg), handling an offensive line like the Bulldogs is a different kind of challenge. Additionally, stopping some of Georgia's skill position guys — running backs Zamir White and James Cook, wide receiver Kearis Jackson — will be a big indicator of whether the Vols are ready to play with the SEC's elite again.
You really have to like where the Volunteers are as a program. Jeremy Pruitt has slowly built them up over the last few seasons to where, as mentioned above, they are the team that owns the nation's longest winning streak. Give Pruitt and his staff an "attaboy."
But this is a significant step up this week. Georgia's offense is solid but not spectacular. The defense? Well, you can use words like fast, athletic, aggressive, deep, mean, nasty, hunkered down, etc. They will be the difference in making this one go the way of the Bulldogs.
Prediction: Georgia 31, Tennessee 10
Podcast: Week 6 Preview and Predictions
— 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.