One thing that seems like it annoys Kirby Smart the most is when he’s asked about future opponents on the schedule. Usually, he will defer the question and say he doesn’t want to overlook the current opponent. Which in turn is a great mentality and that’s just his style of management.
But recently, ESPN Analyst and former Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rogers expressed two teams that are capable of beating the Bulldogs, and both matchups are a little more than midway through the season. Those two programs are the Florida Gators and the Tennessee Volunteers.
Rogers has been on record saying that he thinks that the Gators have a slight advantage over the Bulldogs, and has also explained how he thinks the Volunteers will be ready to face the competition this season.
“You know they won six out of their last seven (last season),” Rodgers said on WJOX radio in Birmingham last week. “If Jarrett Guarantano hands the ball off against Alabama, that’s a different ball game.”
Rogers was referring to last year’s matchup between Alabama and Tennessee. Many Volunteers’ fans and Rogers think that if Guarantano would’ve handed the ball off instead of attempting a QB sneak, that UT could’ve had a chance to win that game. Tennessee trailed 28-13 midway through the fourth quarter when Guarantano fumbled at the goal line and Trevon Diggs scooped up the ball and returned it for a touchdown.
The Volunteers went on to win their next six games and finished with an 8-5 record. It was their best record since former head coach and Alabama staffer Butch Jones led the team to a 9-4 campaign. Now, Jeremy Pruitt enters his third season in Knoxville, and Rogers explained that he has the program headed toward success.
“Jeremy Pruitt has this team headed in the right direction,” Rodgers said. “They are gonna be a tough out for everybody. I think this is the year where they are right there with Georgia and Florida, and it’s gonna come down to how they play in those games. But they are going to have an opportunity, to, call it an upset if you want, win over Florida and Georgia. They are gonna be in those football games.”
As of right now, the Tennessee-Florida game is currently scheduled for Sept. 26, while the Volunteers game with Georgia takes place on Nov. 14 in Athens, the same weekend The Masters is being played in Augusta. UGA has won the past three games against Tennessee in the rivalry by a cumulative score of 122-26, including last season’s 43-14 win in Neyland Stadium.
Nevertheless, Rodgers has faith in Pruitt’s defensive mind, and he said that the only problem to figure out is how to get on the same page as his senior signal caller.
“It’s going to come down to the trust that Pruitt has in his quarterback, Guarantano,” Rodgers said. “Pruitt has a blueprint for the defense, and he has a blueprint for how he wants his offense run and how he wants his quarterback to operate, that was the biggest unknown and the biggest negative last year was Guarantano played outside of that blueprint.
“So if he does kinda play within that blueprint, the talent that Pruitt has added to this roster, and the experience they have, they’re gonna be there. So they could be a team that could get Georgia to slip up, get Florida to slip up.”