For the first time since what feels like the turn of the century, Tennessee will play in two of the biggest games of the college football season. The Volunteers upset Alabama in front of a home crowd, and just a few weeks later, they’ll travel south to Athens to take on Georgia in a contest that will likely decide the SEC East.
Nov. 5 is going to be a massive week for college football; Alabama will travel to Baton Rouge in a matchup against LSU that could decide the SEC West. And 600 miles away, Tennessee will face the Bulldogs in what will be the biggest game of the season and have significant College Football Playoff implications.
Currently, UGA is No. 1 and Tennessee is No. 3 in the AP rankings. The Volunteers haven’t beaten the Dawgs since they won on a Hail Mary at Sanford Stadium in Kirby Smart’s first year. The Volunteer offense looks unstoppable with Hendon Hooker, the front-runner to win the Heisman, as the signal caller.
To me, the question will be if Tennesse can slow down Georgia’s improved offense. UGA’s defense — the No. 2 scoring unit in the nation (9.14 points) — will be put to the test against Tennessee’s high-powered offense. But Tennesse’s defense — the No. 50 unit in the country (23.14 points per game) — is extremely suspect. The deciding factor will be the Dawgs offense versus the Volunteers defense.
But Kirk Herbstreit sees it differently. He ranked Tennessee the No. 2 team, higher than the Georgia Bulldogs, his No. 3 team. His reason for ranking Tennessee over Georgia is straightforward — the quarterback position.
Hooker has 21 total touchdowns this season and has thrown only one interception, but Stetson Bennett isn’t the game manager he used to be when he originally took over at quarterback for Georgia. Next weekend will be one of the most electric Saturdays in recent memory. But before then, both teams will have SEC matchups this weekend.
The Bulldogs will face the Gators in Jacksonville at the World’s Largest Cocktail Party, and the Volunteers will host the Kentucky Wildcats. Florida should get steamrolled by Georgia. Billy Napier’s team is clearly in the dumps and littered with holes. Anthony Richardson has more interceptions than touchdowns and the defense can’t stop anything. While Kirby Smart’s squad has its sights set on another National Championship, knowing how important this rivalry is to Georgia fans. The Dawgs will not overlook the Gators in this one; it should be a slaughter fest.
However, the same cannot be said for Tennessee. Georgia has been in this position for a handful of seasons now; this is the first time in many, many years that Tennessee is relevant. They could potentially get caught looking ahead to next week and slip up against Kentucky. It’s not something I’m rooting for; in fact, I want both sides to come into the Nov. 5 matchup undefeated. But you’d be insane to think Tennessee couldn’t be on upset watch if the Wildcats can muddy the contest up.