No. 1 Tennessee heads to No. 3 Georgia Saturday with the SEC east title and an inside track to the College Football Playoff on the line.
Each week, the RTI team will provide game predictions for Tennessee’s weekly opponent.
We move on to Georgia.
I’ve never been necessarily great at making picks… but I am 8-0 on the year after picking Tennessee for each game of the season so far. Alabama was certainly the most difficult to pick, but I felt like Tennessee’s home-field environment could maybe make the difference. Turns out, Alabama was playing somewhat scared, and it showed up on the field. Plus, Alabama needed Bryce Young to play out of his mind just to lose by a field goal.
This one though… this one is tough. For so many different reasons. I did a podcast recording on According to the Osbornes this week where I said that this game, truly, was going to come down to the trenches. And I certainly do believe that. We know that both teams have talented skill players on both sides of the ball. Georgia has Brock Bowers while Tennessee has Jalin Hyatt. Tennessee has an emerging Doneiko Slaughter while Georgia has Kelee Ringo. This game is going to really come down to who can get the push, the shove, and the blocking to keep their quarterback upright.
While everyone is going to be watching the Tennessee offense vs the Georgia defense as a whole, the matchup between the big men of Tennessee’s defensive line and Georgia’s offensive line is going to be important. While Stetson Bennett is a veteran quarterback who has played in huge games to this point, I think that Tennessee’s defense can make him uncomfortable by putting pressure – as we have seen the Vols do with success this season.
Hendon Hooker has been the talk of the Heisman conversation since the Vols’ establishing win over Alabama. And while it feels a little cliche to sit here and say that Hendon Hooker has to be good, Hendon Hooker has to be good. We haven’t seen anything from Hooker this season to lead us to believe that he won’t be sharp and prepared heading into this game. But it’s about execution. Georgia has the best defense in the country, and Hooker is going to have to continue to be the best quarterback in college football for Tennessee to win.
One more note: The Georgia defense is No. 1 in stalled drives at about 20 percent. Meanwhile, Tennessee’s offense stalls out drives just about four percent of the time. A stalled drive is a three-and-out with no or negative gain. Matchup of titans, there.
I’m going to continue the trend of my picks whether I feel great about it or not. Side note, I do feel alright about my pick. About as alright as you can for the game of the year, that is. How do you take a crowd out of the game? Scoring points. And that’s what Tennessee does best.
Prediction: Tennessee 38, Georgia 33
Tennessee heads to Athens for the program’s biggest game since the 2001 SEC Championship and what is perhaps the biggest game in Sanford Stadium history. Georgia is accustomed to playing in games of this magnitude in recent years while Tennessee’s in its first season of them. I don’t expect that to be a factor Saturday. Tennessee’s been ready for every test this season and Josh Heupel and Hendon Hooker’s even keel nature will have them ready Saturday.
This game is going to come down to the line of scrimmage. That’s not exactly ground breaking intel as the most games come down to quarterback play and the line of scrimmage. Tennessee’s defensive line has controlled the line of scrimmage all season, forcing opponents to beat them through the air. Georgia has the best offensive line the Vols have seen to date and putting Stetson Bennett in favorable positions is what the Bulldogs offense thrives on. On the other hand, Tennessee’s run game is the straw that stirs the high powered offense’s drink. The one game they struggled offensively this season — Pitt — was the one game the Vols didn’t run for over 100 yards. Tennessee’s run game has been strong against everyone its played since but, again, Georgia presents its biggest test to date.
If Tennessee runs the ball for over 100 yards I have a hard time seeing them score less than 35 points. I think Tennessee will do just that even though it’s not a given. High powered offenses have consistently given Kirby Smart and Georgia struggles. Tennessee is built to beat the teams that Georgia puts on the field year-after-year. The Vols offense can put up points on anyone they play and their defense has sneakily gotten better all season. Tennessee gets it done in Athens Saturday.
Prediction: Tennessee 38, Georgia 35