The No. 14 Tennessee Volunteers (2-0) will take on the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs (2-0) in the biggest test of their season thus far.
Last Saturday, the Vols improved to 2-0 after dominating the Missouri Tigers 35-12 in their home opener. The victory extended their win streak to eight straight games, which remains the longest out of all Power-Five Conference teams.
Against the Tigers, Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano continued his improved play. Guarantano finished the game with a pair of rushing touchdowns to go along with 190 yards through the air and one passing touchdown. His three rushing touchdowns on the season rank him tied for third of all players in the SEC of that category.
Guarantano only attempted five passes last season against Georgia as Brain Maurer got almost all of the snaps. Neither quarterback was successful against the Bulldog defense as they were only able to put up 14 points. None of the receivers that caught passes in last year’s contest are on the team or available to play on Saturday besides Ty Chandler who recorded only one catch for three yards. Tennessee wide receivers have a big, unfamiliar test ahead of them.
However, the key to Tennessee overpowering Missouri was their run game. Vol running backs Eric Gray, Ty Chandler and Jabari Small combined for 222 yards rushing on 39 carries. Both Gray and Chandler also scored touchdowns.
Although the running backs played a crucial role in the rushing game, credit should also be given to the offensive line. The group of lineman nicknamed the “Tennessee Valley Authority” performed up to their high expectations. In Cade Mays’ first game as a Vol, he fit in perfectly with the rest of the highly touted line.
Running the ball against Georgia is no easy task, though. They are known for having an elite defense, and specifically an elite defensive line. The defense held No. 7 Auburn to just 39 yards on the ground last week. The match-up between the Vols’ offensive line and the Bulldogs’ defensive line has major implications on Tennessee’s offensive success.
A weakness for Tennessee was once again kicking. Vols kicker, Brent Cimaglia, went 5-for-5 on extra points but was unsuccessful in his lone field goal attempt. This moves him to 1-for-3 on field goals this season which pales in comparison to his 23-for-27 mark he set last season. Georgia has only given up an average of eight points a contest through two games making field goals even more important to convert.
The Bulldogs’ last game was against No. 7 Auburn. Georgia would go on to blow out Auburn in a 27-6 win. They were able to throw for 240 yards and run for another 202.
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett completed 17-of-28 throws and threw for one touchdown. Bennett became the starter after transfer Jamie Newman opted out of the season over COVID-19 concerns. USC transfer JT Daniels is also eligible to play and may be an option for the Bulldogs on Saturday.
The Georgia rushing game was led by Zamir White who amassed 88 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. Six other Georgia players also recorded at least one rushing attempt.
This week Tennessee will have more help in stopping the Georgia attack, though. Senior Shawn Shamburger will make his first appearance of the season after missing the first two games for unknown reasons. Bryce Thompson will also be fully active after only playing third downs against Missouri due to injuries.
Saturday in Athens, Georgia may not have the best weather. Scattered thunderstorms through the afternoon with a 70% chance of rain. This could make the ground game even more important for both sides.
Georgia is favored by 12.5 points going into the game. Tennessee’s last win against the Bulldogs was in 2016 after a miraculous catch by Jauan Jennings as time expired. Georgia currently leads the all-time series but Tennessee could tie it up on Saturday as it currently stands at 24-23-2 in the favor of the Bulldogs.
Ryan Sylvia, assistant sports editor – Georgia 23, Tennessee 20
Tennessee has a chance to leave Athens with a win, but Georgia will narrowly come out on top. Tennessee will have success in the run game but Guarantano will struggle to find a connection with his wide receivers. The Vols’ defense will hold up but their offense will not produce enough for a victory.
Game Time and Coverage
Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. EST in Athens, Georgia. The game will be aired on CBS and TNJN will have more coverage following the game.
Edited by Gracie-Lee Strange and Maddie Torres
Featured photo courtesy of Tennessee Football Twitter (@Vol_Football)