We’ve officially made it to the most significant week in SEC football, as both divisions are on the line this Saturday. In Baton Rouge, Alabama looks to bounce back from their loss against Tennessee and re-establish themselves as the class of the SEC West against LSU. Both of them sit atop the division and the winner will have the inside track to the SEC Championship. However, the game of the week takes place in Athens, as the top ranked Georgia Bulldogs host the undefeated Tennessee Volunteers in what could decide multiple spots in the College Football Playoff.
Georgia vs. Tennessee
Line: Georgia -8.5
If you’re looking for a resemblance to what Tennessee has done this season, it’s hard not to compare them to 2019 LSU. Do I think they are as talented as that LSU squad that featured Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, and several other Pro-Bowl talents? Not quite, but Tennessee’s road to get to this point is eerily similar.
The Vols first test of the season was on the road against Pittsburgh, which Tennessee was able to win in overtime. Looking back now, it’s probably a game the Vols should have won running away, but it was a high-quality first road test that gave Tennessee some confidence moving forward, and they’ve built on that momentum each week.
The Vols clobbered LSU in Baton Rouge a few weeks later. Then, of course, they handled Alabama at home after that. But perhaps their most impressive victory to date came this past weekend, as they beat down a respectable Kentucky squad 44-6 in Knoxville. Tennessee has transformed into a juggernaut in recent weeks and will undoubtedly be Georgia’s toughest test to date. Despite that, oddsmakers still view the Bulldogs as substantial favorites at home.
Tennessee’s offense vs. Georgia’s defense
Styles make fights, and this has all the makings of a game that should come down to the wire. Georgia’s defense isn’t the unit it was a year ago, but they remain one of the best at keeping their opponents off the board. On the season, Georgia is allowing just 12 points per game (3rd in the country) and 281.9 yards per game (7th in the country).
With that being said, they haven’t seen an offense close to as talented as the one they will face on Saturday. Tennesse is averaging nearly 50 points per game (47.1 – second in the country) on 532.6 yards (also second in the country). Nobody has been able to stop Hendon Hooker – the Heisman frontrunner – and this Volunteers passing attack. And I don’t expect that to change Saturday.
If there is a vulnerable aspect to Georgia’s defense, it’s in the secondary, and to make matters worse, they will be without one of their top pass rushers in Nolan Smith, who will miss the rest of the season with a torn pectoral muscle. There isn’t a defense in the country that is going to completely shut down Tennessee, even if Georgia was 100% healthy. The Bulldogs will have to score a lot of points in this one if they want to come out victorious, but they do have the offense to take advantage of Tennessee’s defense.
Georgia’s offense vs. Tennessee’s defense
The Volunteers’ flaws lie on the defensive side of the ball. They looked much improved against Kentucky this past weekend, but they are still giving up close to 400 yards a game, and we saw Alabama pick this unit apart at will a couple of weeks ago.
Georgia’s offense doesn’t get the same hype that Tennessee’s does, but they are actually the only team averaging more yards per game at 537.4. They also rank fourth in points per game, averaging a smooth 43.0.
Stylistically, Georgia does things a bit differently than Tennessee. They prefer to pound the rock and average nearly 6.0 yards per carry, but if they want to walk away from this game undefeated, it will lie on the shoulders of Stetson Bennett. He’s no longer just a game manager, and this Georgia team has the weapons to create a boatload of problems for Tennessee’s defense. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it was Bennett, not Hooker, that ended Saturday’s game with the more impressive stat line, and he might have to for Georgia to win.
If this game were in Knoxville, I might view it a little differently, but I like the Bulldogs to take care of business at home. Sanford Stadium can be a nightmare for opponents, and this will be an enemy atmosphere that the Vols have yet to deal with this season. I think Stetson Bennett and the Georgia offense will score early and often, but I do think it will be decided in the fourth quarter. Give me Tennessee and the points, but Georgia wins a thriller in Athens.
Georgia 38, Tennessee 35