Third-ranked Georgia travels to Knoxville to tangle with Tennessee at Neyland Stadium Saturday. The Bulldogs aim for a third consecutive win in the series, while the Volunteers are eyeing the upset. Both teams have the benefit of an open date. The Volunteers head into the game with a record of 1-3, while the Bulldogs are 4-0.
Tennessee was stunned in its season-opener, falling to Georgia State at Neyland Stadium 38-30. The Volunteers bounced back the following week and were on the verge of victory against Brigham Young, but the Cougars hit a deep pass in the closing seconds and then inched in a tying field goal. BYU would go on to win in overtime. Following a blowout win over Chattanooga, the Volunteers went to Florida where the Gators pulled away late to come out on top 34-3.
The Bulldogs are coming off a monumental victory over Notre Dame, as Georgia held on to win 23-17 before an electric Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in one of the most highly anticipated games ever between the hedges. The win was an affirmation for a Georgia team that dusted Vanderbilt 30-6 in the season and Southeastern Conference opener in Nashville and then blew by both Murray State and Arkansas State. With all of the emotion and energy put into Notre Dame, as well as a slew of injuries, in particular, in the secondary and along the offensive line, this past weekend’s open date came at a very good time for Georgia.
Meanwhile, Tennessee is circling the wagons, and embracing the underdog role, attempting to jump-start its season with a signature win.
This will be the 49th all-time meeting between Georgia and Tennessee, and the series is tied 23-23-2. Georgia has won the last two contests between the two, rolling to a 41-0 victory at Neyland Stadium in 2017 and then prevailing 38-12 a year ago in Athens. The Volunteers had won the two prior contests, rallying from a 24-3 first-half deficit to defeat the Dogs – with current Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt then Georgia’s defensive coordinator – 38-31 in 2015. The following year was the Hail Mary Josh Dobbs to Jauan Jennings that stunned the Bulldogs. Georgia won five straight in the series from 2010-2014 prior to Tennessee’s comeback wins of ‘15 and ‘16.
While this game is critical to Georgia’s championship dreams and Tennessee’s hopes to start to salvage its season, the historical context of the winner of this game taking the series lead is important for these proud programs. From Georgia’s standpoint, after going through a nine-game losing streak to Tennessee from 1989-99 (the two didn’t play in 1990 and 1991), the chance to take the lead in the all-time series 20 years later likely seemed far fetched.
Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart, who never tasted victory over the Vols as an All-SEC performer at Georgia, is focused on having his team prepared to play to the highest of standards and not give Tennessee that upset opportunity. The goal for Georgia Saturday on the banks of the Tennessee: 5-0 and three in a row over the Volunteers.