Tennessee’s second SEC matchup features another rivalry game, as the Georgia Bulldogs travel to Knoxville ranked No. 7 in the AP Top 25.
Tennessee has beaten the Bulldogs each of the past two years, however the Vols have not defeated a team ranked in the AP Top 10 since 2006. Tennessee holds a 0-27 record against such teams since then.
Every Georgia game in the Butch Jones era has been a close contest with several coming down to the last play, and though Georgia is a seven-point favorite, this year figures to be more of the same.
This Saturday will also be the 2017 iteration of Tennessee’s new “Checker Neyland” tradition. The crowd stunt began in 2014 with Florida and has since featured games against Oklahoma, Florida again in 2016 and now Georgia.
The Vols will also wear the alternate “Smokey Grey” uniforms, confirmed by the team’s official Twitter account on Tuesday.
I wasn’t convinced this past offseason that Georgia was going to be all that in 2017, but the Bulldogs may have changed my mind.
UGA has begun the season 4-0 including an impressive road win against Notre Dame and a drubbing of then-No. 17 Mississippi State in Sanford Stadium.
Georgia’s defense has stood out through the first part of the season, but its offense is no slouch. UGA returned senior running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel after one or both looked poised to head to the NFL following last season.
The Bulldogs do seem caught in some form of a quarterback controversy, though. Returning starter Jacob Eason went down with an injury in Georgia’s season opener against Appalachian State and was replaced with freshman Jake Fromm.
All Fromm has done is lead Georgia to a 4-0 start and a No. 7 ranking in the AP Poll. Eason has since returned to practice and it is not clear which quarterback will start for Georgia against Tennessee, but it certainly appears Fromm may have gained the upper hand.
Georgia hosted No. 17 Mississippi State last week in what was supposed to be one of the best games both in the SEC and nationally.
Georgia put forth its best game of the season, defeating Mississippi State 31-3.
Jake Fromm finished the game 9-12 for 201 yards and two touchdowns and Nick Chubb rushed 15 times for 81 yards and two touchdowns.
Georgia’s defense was equally as impressive, holding Mississippi State to just a field goal for the game. Mississippi State star quarterback Nick Fitzgerald completed just 14 of his 29 passes for 83 yards with two interceptions.
RB Nick Chubb - Many would have been shocked a year ago if you had theorized Nick Chubb would return to Neyland Stadium during his senior year, but Chubb chose to return to Georgia instead of enter the NFL Draft a year early. So far this season, Chubb has rushed 59 times for 371 yards and six touchdowns. He looks as good as he has at any point during his college career, even as Georgia has more offensive weapons.
WR Terry Godwin - Terry Godwin has emerged as Jake Fromm’s favorite target. Godwin has eight receptions through four games, but those eight receptions have been good for 214 yards - 26.8 yards per catch - and four touchdowns.
DE Lorenzo Carter - Lorenzo Carter is another player who was supposed to only be a three-year player for Georgia, but he didn’t quite live up to the hype through his junior year. Carter appears to be playing much better this year, though, with 17 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles so far this season.
LB Roquan Smith - Roquan Smith is the anchor of Georgia’s front seven, which has been among the elite units in the country in 2017. Smith has 27 tackles through Georgia’s first four games and has made his presence felt with his play and leadership.
This is the most important game of Tennessee’s season, certainly to this point, but possibly period.
Tennessee is coming off two lackluster performances and swirling rumors about its head coach while Georgia comes in riding high already with two Top 25 wins.
The Vols are going to have to get something going offensively against a stout Georgia defense. John Kelly will likely need to have a game reminiscent of his performance at Florida to open up the offense and allow Quinten Dormady more open throwing lanes.
I think Tennessee’s defense will fare better against the UGA offense than one might initially expect, but the Tennessee offense must prove it is able to put up points.