Georgia heads into Knoxville this upcoming weekend in an interesting position compared to where these two teams were sitting just a week ago. If Georgia had lost to Ole Miss and Tennessee had beaten Missouri, Tennessee would have been hosting an SEC East Championship in their home stadium. However, Eli Drinkwitz and his Missouri Tigers “stand on business” and embarrassed the Volunteers, ending their hopes of returning to Atlanta for the first time since 2007.
The reality is Georgia can lose this game, beat Tech, beat Alabama, and still achieve their goal of making it to the College Football Playoff. That’s not preferable, and it certainly is not the plan Kirby Smart has with his football team. Georgia has played its best football as of recent, and continuing the late-season momentum is essential if the Bulldogs want to achieve their goals.
Tennessee, on the other hand, has numerous questions they need to answer heading into the clash against the Dawgs. After an embarrassing loss eliminating any hope of a conference championship, it’s fair to wonder if Heupel can motivate his team. A chance to knock off the top-ranked team in the country should be plenty enough motivation, and the environment in Knoxville should be as electric as always, but will that be enough to slow down this potent Georgia offense?
Unlike last year, the Vols’ explosive passing game has been limited, but they are running the football with much success. Tennessee has three running backs who have rushed for 400 yards or more on the season, and quarterback Joe Milton has eclipsed over 300 yards on the ground. The Vols are very much a run-first offense, and they’re one of the best teams in the nation at doing so.
On the defensive side of the ball, Tennessee has a stout defensive line filled with veterans. Defensive ends Tyler Baron and James Pearce Jr. have been a force getting to the quarterback, accounting for a combined 13.5 sacks, while defensive tackle Omarr Norman-Lott has been dominant in the middle, recording 21 tackles along with 5.5 sacks. Linebackers Elijah Herring and Aaron Beasley rank first and second on the team in total tackles and are athletic enough to make plays from sideline to sideline.
Despite the challenges Tennessee presents, it should be well documented that the Bulldogs are a resilient bunch, as they have proven throughout the season. Coach Kirby Smart is well aware of the difficulties of playing SEC games on the road, but he has a talented and healthy group of players ready to prove yet again why they are the number one team in the country.