I'm not sure any of us quite saw that coming. The Vols rode a 38-0 run to beat the rival Florida Gators 38-28 last week, with three of our writers correctly picking Tennessee to cover the 6.5 point spread. Closest to the Pin goes to _trey_, whose 28-17 prediction was just one point off on the margin, albeit 21 off on the total. This week, the Vols are riding high heading into Athens, where the 3-1 Georgia Bulldogs await. Our staff is confident, with six of the eight picking the Vols to cover the 3.5 point spread. Hopefully, that confidence among fans isn't reflective of overconfidence in the team.
Incipient (3-1 straight up, 2-2 against the spread): On one hand, Tennessee looked like they finally put things together against Florida--the offensive line was decent, the passing game was making plays, and the defensive line was fierce--while Georgia has struggled immensely three weeks straight. On the other hand, I have a rule that has served me well since the 2004 Georgia game: if a team coming off an unexpectedly big win plays a team coming off an unexpectedly bad loss, stay away from the team coming off the win. I fully expect the Vols to get Georgia's best shot, and Tennessee's struggles out of the gate haven't gone away. Nor has the fact that they're playing all backup linebackers against a team whose strength is on the ground. Tennessee 26 Georgia 24
Will (4-0 straight up, 3-1 against the spread): This feels like a good week to have Butch Jones as your head coach and Josh Dobbs as your quarterback. While the rest of us are partying like it's 2004, two guys who preach and generally practice being steady week-to-week and down-to-down are good role models for the rest of the Vols. Dobbs has been effective against Kirby Smart defenses and was tremendously effective against Georgia last year. I'm still concerned about what happens if Chaney decides to just have Eason throw it deep every play, and as such I think the Vols will give up some plays and some points. But if Tennessee's offense takes care of the ball and executes their game plan, I think the Vols will end the day with more plays and more points. Tennessee 34 Georgia 20
Joel (4-0 straight up, 2-2 against the spread): Tennessee 31 Georgia 21
Chris (3-1 straight up, 1-3 against the spread): What trey said. This will be the first true road game this squad's faced (not a huge deal due to experience, but somehow nobody's mentioned that yet), and weird stuff can happen sometimes. If Tennessee shows up for the whole game (or gets down three scores, apparently), I'll feel decent about this.
Hunter (4-0 straight up, 1-3 against the spread): Let's assume for a moment that Georgia comes out in the first quarter angry, focused, and ready to atone for last week's dismal performance against Ole Miss. Let's go a step further and assume that offensive coordinator Jim Chaney calls a masterful opening sequence of plays, mixing up the run and play-action pass to march down the field. Let's assume that Georgia jumps out to an early lead.
Volundore (3-1 straight up, 2-2 against the spread): Yeah...basically what I_S said. As wonderful and cathartic as that 35-0 run was against the Gators, that's not a realistic expectation on a weekly basis. On the flip side, as incompetent as Georgia looked in falling behind 45-0 in Oxford, they're probably not going to lay an egg quite like that in consecutive games. When you consider the serious potential for mean reversion plus the fact that Tennessee is 0-4 in getting off to good starts, I think we'll be sweating this out into the second half. In the end, Barnett and Tuttle end up making just enough plays to give Dobbs and company time to steady themselves and salt it away. Tennessee 34 Georgia 27
Justin (4-0 straight up, 1-3 against the spread): Bob Shoop has a lifetime record of 41-7 against freshmen quarterbacks.
Trey (4-0 straight up, 2-2 against the spread): So I'm torn on this pick. POINT: It's hard not to think that the slow starts won't eventually catch up to us- we've gotten more than a couple good second-half bounces this year, and an away afternoon game in Athens after an emotional, historic win doesn't exactly scream "focused play" to me. COUNTERPOINT: Georgia looks flat-out awful, and last week's debacle felt much more like "that team straight-up sucks" than solely "they lost to better team." If the Vols lose this game, it'll be by beating themselves.
Will makes a good point about steady heads (and the chance Chaney throws up his hands and calls 60 passes). I could see either a close Georgia upset, or a Tennessee romp. Soooo- let's split the difference? Tennessee 31 Georgia 21
Rocky Top Talk Staff Average (4-0 straight up, 2-2 against the spread): Tennessee 32 Georgia 23
Vegas: Tennessee -3.5. Over/under 52.5. Tennessee 28 Georgia 25