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Game Preview: Tennessee at No. 2 Georgia

Tennessee (2-2) at Georgia (4-0)

Saturday, Sep. 29th, 3:30 ET

Sanford Stadium (92,746) • Athens, GA


Series Record: Tennessee leads 23-22-2

 Setting the table

The last time Tennessee traveled to Athens, the Vols were riding high off a 38-28 victory over Florida and stunned Georgia fans with a Hail Mary to defeat the Bulldogs 34-31. This year, however, the Vols are mired in yet another rebuild and are coming off a 47-21 loss to the Gators at home. Georgia is the No. 2 team in the nation and have one of the more balanced offenses the Vols will face this season. The Bulldogs are heavy favorites, and Tennessee appears out-matched in most areas.

 Who has the edge

When Tennessee throws…

Tennessee’s shortcomings in the passing game got exposed last week against Florida, and the Bulldogs have one of the better pass defenses in the SEC. Jarrett Guarantano had done a good job of taking care of the ball for the first three weeks, but he turned it over three times last Saturday because of poor blocking for the most part. Tennessee’s offensive line has just been downright disastrous at times this season, and it’s going to hinder the offense all year. EdgeGeorgia

When Tennessee runs…

The Vols are dedicated to running the ball, that’s for sure. Only six other Power Five teams are averaging more carries per game than Tennessee right now, and that doesn’t figure to change much moving forward. While the Vols are running a lot and look good on paper, most of their yards against Power Five teams have come once the game has been out of reach. Georgia’s run defense has struggled at times this year, but Tennessee’s offensive line hasn’t proven it can block effectively. Edge: Slightly to Georgia

When Georgia throws…

Tennessee’s secondary hasn’t given up a ton of yards so far this year, but they’ve been very inefficient. The Vols are tied with Texas A&M for the second-most passing touchdowns allowed this season (8), and that includes Tennessee not allowing a single touchdown in games against ETSU and UTEP. Both West Virginia and Florida scored at will through the air against the Vols, and Tennessee has yet to pick off a pass against a Power Five opponent. Jake Fromm has been efficient and hasn’t turned the ball over much, and receiver Mecole Hardman is arguably the most dangerous athlete the Vols have faced this year. Edge: Heavily to Georgia 

When Georgia runs…

Last year, the Vols had one of the worst run defenses in college football. This year, they’ve looked better in that regard, but their match-up with Georgia will be their first big test. The Bulldogs are averaging the second-most rushing yards per game in the SEC, and they have a whole host of running backs who can make plays. Last year, Tennessee allowed Georgia to run for nearly 300 yards. The Bulldogs could get close to that number again in this one. Edge: Heavily to Georgia 

On special teams…

Georgia has some incredibly dangerous return teams, and they’ve already had one punt taken back for a score by Mecole Hardman and another punt that was blocked and returned for a touchdown by Eric Stokes. The Bulldogs have also only allowed one punt return all season to opponents and only two kick-off returns. Tennessee has had a good showing on special teams aside from a Marquez Callaway fumbled punt against UTEP. But the Bulldogs have a few more play-makers in their return units than the Vols do right now. Edge: Georgia 

 Best-case scenario for UT 

Realistically, Tennessee isn’t winning this game. But if they want to shock the world, they’re going to have to limit their mistakes to nearly zero and force Georgia into turning the ball over a few times. The Vols could also use a special teams or defensive touchdown to help their offense out some. But a more realistic best-case scenario is that the Vols keep it closer than many expect and find a way to show improvement after last weekend’s debacle.

 Worst-case scenario for UT

Tennessee not only loses, but Georgia runs up the score on them. Kirby Smart doesn’t seem very fond of the Vols at all, and there’s a chance he doesn’t call off the Dawgs even if the game is comfortably decided in the fourth quarter. The Vols suffered one historic loss to the Bulldogs last year, and another such loss would be demoralizing this season.

 How we think it’ll play out

The Vols opened up as 32.5-point underdogs to Georgia, and that has only dropped to 31 points in the Bulldogs’ favor since then. Tennessee will face an uphill battle just to cover the spread in this game, let alone win it.

Our picks:

Nathanael: Georgia 41-10
Georgia 48-6
Georgia 38-17

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