I feel a new freedom in my picks this week. I picked Florida last week, largely because I vowed I couldn’t pick UT in that series until I saw it. And to a certain extent, it wasn’t just UT-Florida, it was a lack of trust for Butch Jones and the staff in big games in general.
Yes, they’ve certainly won a few in their time, but it was hard to bank on it based on so many near-misses. They definitely showed me something in that come-from-behind win. So I can go into some of these games and have a little more confidence to pick UT.
And that’s what I’m doing, at least for this week. There’s a lot that looks great on paper for Tennessee in this matchup, no question. The Vols’ defensive line looked to live up to the hype in the second half against Florida, and if Derek Barnett and Co. bring that kind of heat against a shaky Georgia O-line and a true freshman quarterback, it could get ugly. I don’t think Nick Chubb is going to play, and if he does, it’s tough to see him being 100%.
Offensively, I thought the Vols had a good plan against Florida, and outside of the fundamental breakdowns early, everything clicked pretty well. I don’t think this Georgia defense is as talented as Florida’s, and it certainly has shown to be susceptible to the big play. UT may not be as explosive overall as Ole Miss, but the Vols do have a more balanced attack offensively, and I can see a scenario where UT is able to march up and down the field on the Bulldogs.
I expect Georgia to bounce back physically and emotionally from the beatdown in Oxford. I do think the Bulldogs are better than what they showed. But good enough to beat a Tennessee team that should be playing with a lot of confidence and with a monkey off its back? I don’t think so.
It’s a week-to-week season, and I’ve seen the Vols look poor enough at times this year to believe that almost anybody could beat them, but based on the matchups and what we saw recently, Tennessee is the pick.
Pick: Tennessee 31-21
MVP: QB Josh Dobbs
I’m riding the hot hand here. Dobbs was the Maxwell Award National Offensive Player of the Week after slicing up Florida, and he had a similar performance against the Bulldogs last year. Chad Kelly put up huge numbers against the Georgia defense last week, and I expect Dobbs to do the same.
Am I the only one predicting a blowout? I really am, aren’t I?
I went from waffling and picking Florida last week because I just lost faith more and more as the week went on to never once wavering on this pick this week. In fact, the biggest concern I had was trying to figure out if this game would be a close one or a blowout.
Man, I hope this confidence doesn’t come back to bite me.
The last five meetings between these two teams have been decided by one possession. The average margin of victory for the Tennessee-Georgia rivalry over the last half decade is a mere 5.6 points. That’s about as close as it gets in an annual rivalry. But before this stretch of five games, close contests weren’t the norm. In fact, before 2010, only four meetings were decided by one possession since division play began in 1992.
I think this year’s game ends the current run of close match-ups.
Georgia’s dynamic running game will be taken back a notch with the absence of Nick Chubb. Yes, they still have capable backs, most notably Sony Michel. But that offense isn’t the same without Chubb. Freshman quarterback Jacob Eason has truly looked like a true freshman at times this season, and I think they’ll ask a little too much of him in this game to make up for Chubb not being on the field.
Throw that in with a less-than-stellar defense and an awful special teams, and I honestly feel pretty confident about this game.
The Bulldogs are coming off a beat down at the hands of Ole Miss. Tennessee is riding high with newfound confidence after finally beating Florida. Some people think the Vols are in for a letdown game, but I don’t. They very well could, especially since this will be their first true road game this season. But I’m not predicting it to happen.
Pick: Tennessee 41-24
MVP: WR Josh Malone
It would be really easy to pick Dobbs as the MVP, and in all likelihood he probably will be. He’s the heart and soul of this offense, and everything Tennessee wants to do runs through him. But I’m going to choose his No. 1 target as the MVP of the game because Georgia is susceptible to letting up big plays in the passing game. And that’s Malone’s specialty this season.
I’d like to start by saying I was the only one on this panel that picked Tennessee to beat Florida last week. Just throwing that out there…
Anyways! Tennessee and Georgia! Let’s talk about it. First, I have been extremely surprised by the defensive struggles for Georgia. The Bulldogs are giving up a whopping 30 points per game and are 78th in passing yards allowed per game (243). If the Volunteers are able to pick up where they left off against the Gators against a much worse Bulldog secondary, another big game for Dobbs may be in the future.
At the same time, Tennessee has been outscored 44-60 in the first half of each of their games combined thus far. This will be Tennessee’s first road game of the season and can’t afford another slow start or it might be too much to overcome for Butch Jones and company.
For Georgia, I have to think the game rests on quarterback Jacob Eason’s shoulders. And to his credit, he has performed relatively well for a true freshman in the SEC. So far the kid is 64-123 for 780 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions. If he can build on these kinds of numbers, Georgia should be set at quarterback for the next few years. And if he can exploit arguably Tennesee’s biggest weakness on defense, their cornerbacks, he could have a big game against the Vols.
Tennessee has a lot going for them right now and a win here would put them in control of their own destiny, taking a big step forward to winning the SEC East. It’s going to be crucial for this Tennessee team to come down from the high of beating Florida and beating a solid Georgia team on the road. Expect a lot of Josh Dobbs on offense and perhaps even more Derek Barnett on defense to keep the momentum on Tennessee’s side.
I went with Tennessee against Florida for one reason: Tennessee is the better team. I am going with Tennessee again for the same reason. There may be a few areas where Georgia is a better match up. But overall, the Volunteers are the better team.
Pick: Tennessee 34-24
MVP: Josh Dobbs/Derek Barnett
I have a co-MVP here because I think the game will be equally dictated by these two players. It appears Derek Barnett came alive and against a Georgia offensive line that is somewhat suspect, he could be in for another big game with multiple sacks, tackles for loss, and QB hurries.
On offense, Dobbs really hit his stride against the Gators last week and although his completion percentage didn’t show it because of dropped passes, he had a stellar performance through the air. His receivers and offensive line are helping him out more and I would be surprised to see another 250 passing yard game with around 60 on the ground and three total touchdowns.