Following a lot of pre-game hype, Tennessee lost to Florida 47-21 last week. It looks to bounce back on Saturday against the No. 2 Georgia Bulldogs.
The Vols enter the game with many questions after their loss against the Gators. The Bulldogs however, are coming into the game undefeated after a tough road win at Missouri.
Tennessee did not win a game in the SEC last year, and Saturday’s matchup brings another change for the Vols to snap their conference losing streak. Georgia has advantages all over the field, but there are certain matchups the Vols must win to have a chance.
Tennessee WR Marquez Callaway vs. Georgia DB Deandre Baker
Marquez Callaway is Tennessee’s most talented receiver. The Vols have relied on him to make plays this year, but he has yet to catch a touchdown. Georgia knows Tennessee will try to target Callaway, and the Bulldogs will attempt to slow him down, most likely with Baker. .
Baker is Georgia’s top defensive back and a preseason All-American. He has gotten off to a great start this season, as he shut down Missouri’s Emanuel Hall and South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel, two talented receivers. Baker already has two interceptions and three pass breakups this year, so if Tennessee wants to stretch the Georgia defense, Callaway has to find a way to beat Baker.
Tennessee Defensive Backs vs. Georgia Wide Receivers
Tennessee’s young secondary has had its growing pains so far this season. After getting picked on against West Virginia, this defensive unit has improved over the last three games, albeit against unimpressive passing attacks.
Georgia has been known for its running game, but this year has been a little different. Sophomore Jake Fromm has an impressive group of receivers that is led by junior Mecole Hardman. Hardman leads Georgia with 14 receptions for 247 yards and four touchdowns.
Tennessee freshmen Alontae Taylor and Bryce Thompson will have to play up to Georgia’s talent level in order to have a chance against this talented Bulldog receiving corps.
Jeremy Pruitt vs. Kirby Smart
The coaches in this game have many similarities. Both became first-time head coaches in taking over their respective programs. Also, they are both defensive savants who specialize in defensive backs. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, they both come from the Nick Saban coaching tree.
The big difference is that Kirby Smart is proven. He led the Bulldogs to the National Championship game in only his second year, and he’s already brought an SEC Championship back to Athens. He has built a strong program, a feat with which Jeremy Pruitt is attempting to play catch-up.
Pruitt experienced his first big SEC game last week, and it was a disaster. He and the Vols’ coaching staff must have a strong game plan for Tennessee to even have a shot. Smart, on the other hand, is used to the big stage as a head coach and seems to have the advantage.
If Pruitt can’t match his former colleague, the Vols stand no chance.
Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29. The game will be televised on CBS.
Featured image by Jake Nichols.