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Tennessee’s chances of upsetting Georgia come down to the play of Jarrett Guarantano

It’s now or never.

Tennessee v Georgia Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

The talent gap between Tennessee and Georgia is closing, most analysts would agree. Jeremy Pruitt has Tennessee at least looking the part of an SEC program these days, beefing up the trenches and adding blue-chippers across the board.

Are they ready to challenge the third-ranked Bulldogs for a win on the road? Perhaps. However, the Volunteers’ chances come down to a familiar dilemma — what will they get out of fifth-year senior quarterback Jarrett Guarantano? He’s seen it all during his time in Knoxville, but his inconsistencies have plagued the Tennessee offense over the last two seasons.

Might he be ready to turn a corner in the biggest spot of his career? The pieces of the puzzle are there for him to do so.

Finally, Guarantano is in the second year of an offensive system. He has the best offensive line that he’s ever had in front of him and a veteran group of receivers that have proven more than capable through the first two weeks of the season. Against what could be the best defense in the country on Saturday, Tennessee is going to need Guarantano to be a difference maker from start to finish. While the Volunteers are still going to try to establish the run and lean on it, odds are, it’s likely going to be tough sledding with this Georgia front seven.

Tennessee ran for over 230 yards last week against Missouri, giving everyone hope going forward. However, Auburn ran 22 times for 39 yards last week against this Georgia front, while Arkansas ran 28 times for 77 yards in week one. It’s going to be a much tougher task to move the ball on the ground on Saturday, but you don’t need me to tell you that.

Which brings us to Jarrett Guarantano, who has been solid but unspectacular through two games. He’s made some beautiful throws down the field, but also missed and handful of layups in the short game. His performance against South Carolina was a good example of what he is — flashes of brilliance followed by an overthrown six yard drag route and the punt team.

As our friend Power T Tape says simply and perfectly, just hit the open throws.

Everything doesn’t rest on the shoulders of Guarantano on Saturday. The rushing attack will be utilized and they’ll have to get something going on the ground. The receivers will have to get free from one of the best secondaries in the nation. Josh Palmer, Brandon Johnson and maybe a guy like Jalin Hyatt will have to win battles at the catch point.

But at the end of the day, this one feels like it’s going to come down to Guarantano having to make a play or two to keep the Vols alive. To his credit, he’s been great in key spots for Tennessee, particularly last year. As simple as it sounds, Jeremy Pruitt needs him to put a complete game together in order to come out on top against the Bulldogs.