Saturday’s matchup between Tennessee and Georgia is of great importance for many reasons. One, Saturday’s game will break the tie in the overall meetings between the two schools. The record as it stands now is 21-21-2. The winner will take the overall lead and will be in a better position in the SEC East race as well.
Tennessee does have a loss to Florida but the East has been a tricky tale to figure out the past couple of seasons. Anything can happen. Tennessee can certainly not lose another East game if the Volunteers hope to make it to Atlanta, and games against Alabama, Missouri and South Carolina are still on the horizon. Butch Jones is treading hot water as it is so a loss at home to Georgia would only make that water boil.
On the other hand, Mark Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs laid an egg last week at home against Alabama. There really isn’t any other way to put it. Now the Bulldogs have the chance to go out and put Tennessee out of the SEC race, destroy any hope to a fan base that thought maybe their team was back and put their team back into the playoff discussion. Both teams have a lot to play for but who really needs this win more?
I can make a case that it is Richt.
Remember the last time Tennessee beat Georgia? I do. It was 2009 and Tennessee had just hired new head coach Lane Kiffin. Kiffin came into Knoxville with such a rush of energy that he willed a bad team to a 7-6 record. And what was that Vols team's biggest win of the year? A blowout win in Knoxville against Georgia.
That Georgia team ended up 8-5 in what most would call a disappointing year for Richt and company. On the other hand, Tennessee finished 7-6 and looked to have another top recruiting class coming into Knoxville. Most thought this could be the turning point for the Volunteer program.
What happened next and Lane Kiffin leaving Knoxville has nothing to do with this post. Tennessee had a ton of momentum going into the 2010 season because of the Georgia upset and almost pulling a huge upset against eventual national champion Alabama the week after. Instead, Kiffin left, Derek Dooley was hired, then fired. Butch Jones was hired and the Vols have yet to beat Georgia since.
Now in 2015, Tennessee is desperate for a signature win and Richt and the Bulldogs can put a stop to any momentum going forward. Not only would a win over Tennessee stop the bleeding for a horrendous loss last week, but it will also put Georgia back on the winning track. Georgia was picked by most to win the SEC East and can still do so. Big games with Florida and Auburn still loom large later on in the year but a win over Tennessee would officially put the Vols out of the East race and kill any momentum they have going forward. Imagine having the power to hit the reset button once again on an entire program? And a rival at that!
To me, Georgia has the opportunity to create even more chaos that is surrounding Knoxville. Most people believe Tennessee has the talent in Knoxville to win. Just look at this stat: The Volunteers are the ONLY team to have a lead of 13 points or more at any point in the game and lose a game. Every other team that has had a 13 point lead or more is undefeated. Tennessee has three such losses.
That’s an amazing stat.
Now with Georgia coming to town, most people believe Tennessee actually has a shot at beating Georgia. And if Tennessee defeats Georgia, the ship could be turned around for the Vols even if they still lose to Alabama, which most people think they will. Tennessee could still have a pretty productive year and a signature win over Georgia would be the one bright spot in an otherwise disappointing year. And I’m pretty sure Vols fans would take a disappointing year over a dumpster fire year at this point in time.
Simply put, Richt and the Bulldogs have to chance to put the Vols in a state of pure chaos with a win in Knoxville on Saturday. Not only can Mark Richt get his guys back on track, he can shut down the momentum of an entire football program with one win. Sure Tennessee could bounce back and win 6 or 7 games this year. But that would not include a single signature win. This is the game most think Tennessee has a shot at stealing. Mark Richt has a chance to shut all that noise off in just 60 minutes.
Richt is “Kresse” this weekend and his Bulldogs are “Johnny.” Sweep the leg, Johnny.
— Written by Justin Nails, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @justinnails.