Georgia football begins SEC East title quest with challenge vs. Tennessee

Oct 3, 2020; Athens, Georgia, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back Zamir White (3) runs against the Auburn Tigers during the first half at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 3, 2020; Athens, Georgia, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back Zamir White (3) runs against the Auburn Tigers during the first half at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

Georgia football under Kirby Smart starts their campaign towards a division title versus the Tennessee Volunteers and Jeremy Pruitt.

Few teams around the country had a more impressive performance last week than Georgia football did in their 27-6 victory vs. Auburn. It was a game that the Bulldogs dominated on both sides of the ball on their way to an early 24-0 lead which was never in doubt.

Most noticeably, the offensive line manhandled the Auburn defense, easily getting linemen to the second level, which allowed running back Zamir White and the rest of the backfield to gain over 200 yards. White played well, displaying patience as blocks developed while bursting ahead.

Stetson Bennett continued to make his claim to the starting quarterback job in his second game. With the ground-and-pound firmly established, he once again remained composed, kept the chains moving, and took care of the football.

Most encouraging for Georgia was the breakout of sophomore receiver Kearis Jackson who had nine catches for 147 yards. He previously had 11 receptions for 141 yards in his career before Saturday. He appears to provide Stetson Bennett with a second option other than George Pickens, which is a significant help.

The defense was stout as usual, as Georgia remains the No. 1 overall defense in the SEC by only allowing eight points per game up to this point. They held Auburn to 39 total yards rushing, and harassed Bo Nix on 22 of his 43 drop-backs. He had two sacks and an interception when pressured.

Not to necessarily downplay Georgia’s defense, but Auburn currently does not have a good offense. The Tigers are still trying to figure things out under a new system. They also feature an offensive line with five new starters that is a work in progress. It also must be noted that the Tigers’ leading rusher only had eight carries.

As for Tennessee, the Volunteers took care of business at home against a weak Missouri team 35-12.

Tennessee is starting to find their identity on offense with the emergence of Eric Gray and Ty Chandler at running back. The two combined for almost 200 yards vs. Missouri.

The Volunteers did not hide their intentions as they employed run-heavy packages often with seven-man fronts while calling zone runs. The blocks that formed were complimented by Gray’s quick decision making by hitting the holes. With his recent performances, Eric Gray is poised for a breakout season for Tennessee.

Meanwhile, Jarrett Guarantano had another serviceable performance as he took care of the ball for the second straight game.

No. 14 Tennessee comes into the matchup against Georgia having won eight straight games, and for the first time under Jeremy Pruitt, it feels like the Vols might be ready to compete with teams like Georgia at the top of the SEC East.

Georgia, on the other hand, looks to continue their recent domination of Tennessee and is ranked No. 3 in the latest AP poll.

Date: Saturday, Oct. 10
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: Athens, Ga.
Venue: Sanford Stadium
Live Stream: CBS All Access

Keys to Victory

Tennessee and Georgia are currently the No. 2 and No. 3 best rushing teams in the SEC.

However, can Tennessee get it going against the vaunted Georgia defense? The Volunteers will need to have at least one back rush for close to 100 yards in this game because Jarret Guarantano cannot carry this team by himself. This might require some creativity by offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. Two-back sets, pulling guards, something.

Guarantano is still far from a great quarterback. On one hand, it is commendable that the coaching staff has enough confidence in him to give him opportunities to air it out. However, he notably missed several throws in the game against South Carolina and has not shown much improvement so far this season. If he is ever going to break out, this must be the game. We know he has the capability to make big throws, but can he connect on a few deep passes in this game?

On the other side, if Georgia can generate a pass rush against the Tennessee offensive line, this game could be firmly in their control.

Meanwhile, on offense, Georgia needs to let the big dawgs eat upfront. This should allow for some play action where Bennett should be comfortable. If Pickens and Jackson finish with around 100 yards receiving combined, that should be about enough.

If Tennessee has any chance of keeping it close, linebacker Henry To’oto’o will need to play like an All-American in order to stop them.

Betting Odds

Courtesy of The Action Network

Spread (Open): Georgia -14.5
Over/Under: 42.5


Tennessee will probably give Georgia a better game than last week. If Stetson Bennett can be tested, the Vols could make it close. However, the onus is really on Jarrett Guarantano to not only be mistake-free but probably play the best game of his career. Unless that happens, Georgia remains out of reach for the Vols for another year.

Final Score: Georgia 32, Tennessee 21

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