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Opponent Preview: Georgia Bulldogs

Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee returns to Neyland Stadium after a trip to Columbia, Missouri, to host the Georgia Bulldogs in the penultimate week of the regular season.

The Vols’ Week 12 matchup will be one of the most difficult games of the season along with Alabama. In the Kirby Smart era, Tennessee has only beaten Georgia once, and it was in Smart’s first year.

Since, the Dawgs have coasted to six consecutive victories, with the closest win being last year’s 14-point victory. And even then, Tennessee was mostly uncompetitive in Athens last year.

For Tennessee to reach the SEC Championship game, beating Georgia will likely be a must. The good news for Tennessee is that the game is in Neyland Stadium. Also, Georgia plays an extremely weak 2023 schedule. Ole Miss and Tennessee are their toughest opponents, and they’re back-to-back on Georgia’s schedule. The Bulldogs may have some trouble with Ole Miss, but they’ll mostly be untested when they stroll into Knoxville in mid-November.

The bad news for Tennessee is that despite losing loads of talent to the NFL over the past two National Championship-winning seasons, the Dawgs are still loaded. And this game is late on the schedule. Smart will have likely ironed out any potential growing pains with his new starting quarterback, Carson Beck, by November 18.

The hope among Vol fans is that Tennessee closes the gap that seems to exist between them and Georgia this season. But they’ll have to top a Georgia team that is favored to three-peat.

Let’s take a look at the 2023 Bulldogs.

What Happened in 2022

Pretty simple. A perfect 15-0 season capped with a second consecutive National Championship.

Georgia struggled in only two games: the CFP Semifinal game against Ohio State and a Week Five game against Missouri in Columbia.

The Ohio State game was one for the ages. It was a back-and-forth battle that saw Ohio State’s CJ Stroud play the best game of his career. But ultimately, the Bulldogs had the last laugh as a game-winning field goal gave them the 45-42 win.

The Missouri game was a head-scratcher for everybody watching. The Tigers didn’t come close to matching up with Georgia, but the Bulldogs had to score 14 fourth-quarter points to pull out a four-point win. It was probably Georgia’s worst performance in the past two seasons, but they didn’t have to pay for it.

Georgia’s win over Tennessee was a matchup between the No. 2 and No. 1 team in the first edition of the 2022 CFP rankings. Although Tennessee deserved the No. 1 overall ranking, Georgia showed they were the better team in Athens, suffocating the Vols in the first half before coasting to the victory.

Georgia’s season ended with the biggest blowout win in National Championship history. A bloodbath from start to finish, the Dawgs whacked TCU 65-7 to earn back-to-back National Championships. Now, the Bulldogs are on the quest for a three-peat, something that hasn’t been done in the AP Poll era.

2023 Offense Outlook

Georgia loses some key pieces from 2022’s team, most notably starting quarterback Stetson Bennett IV.

Carson Beck steps in as the new starter, and he has big shoes to fill as Bennett quarterbacked each of the last two National Championship teams.

But Bennett was once upon a time a walk-on, whereas Beck is a highly touted recruit and very talented. Could Georgia be even better with the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Beck under center?

Beck’s job is made easier thanks to an above-average offensive line and plenty of elite weapons. Georgia returns tight end Brock Bowers, who is the best position player in all of college football.

Additionally, Georgia got wide receivers Dominic Lovett (Missouri) and RaRa Thomas (Mississippi State) out of the portal to bolster their WR corps. Both Thomas and Lovett were two of the hottest names in the portal at WR. With the two of them joining speedster Ladd McConkey, Georgia may have their best wide receiver corps in a long time.

There’s no stud running back like Georgia has had in the past, but it’s Georgia. They’ll have a good running game.

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2023 Defense Outlook

Jalen Carter, Kelee Ringo, Christopher Smith, and Nolan Smith (even though he didn’t play in 2022) are all gone. That’s a lot to replace.

The good news is Georgia’s defense is chalked full of young players poised to have All-SEC caliber seasons.

Linebackers Jamon Dumas-Johnson and Smael Mondon Jr., safety Malaki Starks, and defensive end Mykell Williams are names that will lead this unit in 2023.

Additionally, Zion Logie, Warren Brinson, Nazir Stackhouse and Tramel Walthour will all make an impact up front, and National Championship game MVP Javon Bullard is back in the secondary.

There’s once again no shortage of dudes on a Georgia defense that may be better than 2022’s group. Georgia will be the toughest defense Tennessee faces this season.


The situation sets up fairly nice for Tennessee. At home, getting Georgia after their Ole Miss game, and the Bulldogs have an unproven quarterback.

But the Bulldogs’ defense is too good, and Carson Beck could be better than Stetson Bennett IV.

This game will be won in the trenches, and that’s advantage Georgia. Unless Joe Milton III has a game for the ages, Georgia wins in Neyland by two scores.

Georgia 31, Tennessee 20

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