Kirby Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs (4-0) will clash with Butch Jones and the Tennessee Volunteers (3-1) on Saturday for the 47th time. The Volunteers lead the series with a 23-21-2 overall record. Can Smart and the Bulldogs strike revenge after Tennessee’s infamous Hail Mary win last year?
Here are the five biggest matchups to keep your eye on Saturday.
Tennessee running backs vs. Georgia front seven
This is one of the premier matchups in the SEC this week. Vols running back John Kelly leads the SEC with 450 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Kelly has tallied a 100-yard rushing game in three of his first four games to start the season. However, he will face his toughest challenge of the year so far against a dominant Bulldogs front seven filled with NFL talent.
Roquan Smith and Lorenzo Carter have led the linebacker corps with a combined 33 tackles, 4.5 tackles-for-loss and a sack. Trenton Thompson is also returning as one of the best defensive linemen in the SEC with 12 tackles and three tackles-for-loss.
Tennessee offensive line vs. Georgia front seven
The Volunteers offensive line will face the most pressure it’s seen all season on Saturday. The only thing close to the Bulldogs’ front seven that Tennessee has seen is Florida, and it didn’t go well for the Vols. Tennessee’s offensive line gave up one sack, five tackles-for-loss and nine quarterback hurries to the Gators.
Offensive linemen Jashon Robertson and true freshman Trey Smith have been pulling their weigh, but all hands will need to be on deck to halt the impressive Georgia front seven of Thompson, Smith and Carter. Tennessee’s run blocking will need to improve greatly before Saturday or things won’t go according to plan. The Vols gave up 12 tackles-for-loss against UMass, so be on the lookout for adjustments on Saturday.
Georgia running backs vs. Tennessee front seven
With a depleted Volunteers front seven taking the field Saturday, the stable of Bulldogs running backs look to take advantage. Georgia running back Nick Chubb returns to Neyland Stadium for the first time since his devastating knee injury in 2015. Chubb has tallied 371 yards rushing and six touchdowns on the year, averaging six yards-per-carry. However, the dangerous part about the Bulldogs’ rushing attack is the depth. Sony Michele, D’Andre Smith, Brian Herrien and Elijah Holyfield are all top-tier SEC running backs. The Tennessee defensive line will need another impressive performance this week to help the injury-stricken linebackers out.
Jake Fromm vs. Tennessee secondary
Since Jacob Eason’s torn ligament in Georgia’s first game, Fromm has stepped up and shown flashes of his arm talent this season. Fromm has been consistent and efficient for the Bulldogs this season with 750 yards passing and seven touchdowns in four games. He has received a huge boost from Georgia’s rushing game, but Fromm will face a fragile Volunteers secondary on Saturday. The Tennessee secondary has seen 79 pass attempts the whole season and have defended just five passes. Fromm has a chance to show his arm off against the Vols secondary if he gets enough help from his offensive line. If the Bulldogs find balance in their offense, it could be a long game for Butch Jones and Tennessee.
Georgia offensive line vs. Tennessee front seven
The Volunteers front seven is coming off its most impressive game of the season last week against UMass. The Tennessee defense racked up seven sacks and 12 tackles-for-loss in the 17-13 win against the Minutemen. Georgia’s offensive line has vastly improved since training camp after just bringing back three starters in 2017. Bulldogs offensive line coach Sam Pittman has pieced together a solid offensive line with senior Isiah Wynn as a cornerstone. This should be an intriguing matchup as Georgia has two inexperienced underclassmen on the line. The Vols will need to dominate the trenches on defense to put pressure on the run-oriented Bulldogs offense.
Featured image courtesy of UT Sports
Edited by Ben McKee