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Prediction Panel: Tennessee vs. No. 3 Georgia

Photo by Anne Newman/RTI

The RTI team makes their picks for the Vols’ match-up with the Georgia Bulldogs this upcoming Saturday. Managing editor Nathanael Rutherford and staff writer Ben McKee share their predictions for the Vols’ first SEC home game of the 2019 season.

Nathanael’s Pick

If it were just Tennessee coming off a bye week, I’d feel a little better about the Vols’ chances of keeping this game closer than people expect. But Georgia also had a bye week this past week, and the Bulldogs are playing like the best team in the country right now.

There isn’t a lot Georgia does poorly, and there isn’t a lot that Tennessee does great this season. I fully expect this to be another lopsided loss to the Bulldogs in Neyland Stadium like in 2017.

Unlike 2017, I don’t think this Vol squad will quit and roll over. I expect true freshman Brian Maurer to likely start at quarterback, and I think he can spark some confidence into UT’s offense. That’ll make it at least a little more competitive than what happened the last time these two teams met in Knoxville.

But the Vols’ offense is still majorly over-matched by Georgia’s defense, and Tennessee’s defense is probably even more over-matched by UGA’s offense.

The Bulldogs are a very balanced offense, and that’s thanks in large part to their elite offensive line. UGA has arguably the best offensive line in all of college football, and they’ve only allowed one sack all season while also helping pave the way for a rushing attack that’s averaging over 250 yards a game on the ground.

Tennessee’s defensive line has been downright mediocre to start this season. The Vols’ entire front seven will have their hands full against Georgia on Saturday. On the flip side, Tennessee’s own O-line will also have a difficult time with a Bulldog front seven that’s one of the best in the SEC.

I’d like to be more optimistic about this game and give all of you reading more of a positive vibe, but I owe it to all of you to be realistic and not sell you something I don’t believe. And what I believe is that Georgia is vastly superior in a number of areas to the Vols right now.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think this one is particularly close regardless of who starts and plays at quarterback for Tennessee.

Pick: 45-13, Georgia 

MVP: D’Andre Swift, Georgia RB

D’Andre Swift has been a machine to start this season, and against Tennessee’s suspect run defense, I expect him to put up some strong numbers. Swift is averaging nearly eight yards per carry on the season, and he already has nearly 400 rushing yards on only 49 carries. The only reason those numbers aren’t higher is because he was only used sparingly in Georgia’s first three games because the Bulldogs put away their opponents quickly.

Ben’s Pick

Georgia is a nightmare match-up for the Vols on both sides of the ball. The Dawgs are simply the best team in the country, and Tennessee isn’t equipped to handle that much talent.

Led by quarterback Jake Fromm, Georgia’s offense presents problems for Tennessee at each position. Fromm is a great SEC quarterback whose football IQ and veteran presence puts his offense in advantageous situations. Behind the best offensive line in the country, Fromm has all day to throw, and as a result, he hasn’t been sacked or thrown an interception all season.

Georgia’s offensive line will also help D’Andre Swift have a big game on the ground. Tennessee’s run defense hasn’t been good this year, and it won’t be turning around on Saturday. Swift is already one of the best running backs in the country, and pairing him with the best O-line makes UGA a lethal attack on the ground.

Then, through the air, Georgia’s wide receivers led by Lawrence Cager, Demetrius Robinson, George Pickens, and Dominick Blaylock all present problems for a Tennessee secondary that is banged up and lacks talent.

Whether or not Tennessee can keep it a close game will come down to quarterback play. Brian Maurer appears to be set to get the start, but can he be efficient and not turn the football over against a Georgia defense that is deep, talented and experienced? If the freshman can do that, the Vols will hang around and put up a fight. If not, Jarrett Guarantano will be back at quarterback to start the second quarter or second half.

Tennessee must establish the run in order to take pressure off of the freshman, but it’ll have a difficult time doing so against a Georgia defense that is only allowing 57 rushing yards per game.

To be frank, Tennessee just lacks the talent, experience, and culture to keep up with Georgia on the football field at the moment.

Pick: 38-10, Georgia 

MVP: Georgia’s rushing attack

Simply put, Georgia’s rushing attack is a terrible match-up for a Tennessee defensive front that lacks talent along the defensive line and depth at the linebacker position. D’Andre Swift is one of the best running backs in the country. Led by future NFL offensive linemen, Swift and Georgia’s rushing attack will have a big day.

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