What To Watch For In Vols Critical Match-Up Against #3 UGA
The last time Georgia came to Knoxville was a game that Vol Fans want to forget as Butch Jones’ Volunteers were curb-stomped by the Dawgs, 41-0. Tennessee’s season crashed and burned following the abysmal performance, as UT finished the season 4-8 (0-8 SEC). Butch Jones would later be terminated and Tennessee would turn to a young Alabama Defensive Coordinator to restore the Volunteers to their past glory.
Last season, the Vols traveled to Athens, GA to faceoff against their hated rivals yet again. After being slaughtered by the Florida Gators at home the week before, expectations were relatively low for them against UGA, who was on top of the College Football world at the time. Surprisingly, the Vols played Georgia fairly well; they didn’t win, yet they looked much improved and they appeared to be going in the right direction. Following the 38-12 loss, (the score does not reflect how close this game was) the Vols would go on to upset the top-25 ranked Auburn Tigers on the road in Jordan-Hare in their next game.
Now, we’ve made it to the week of the 2019 Tennessee-Georgia game and the rivalry is at another crossroad. The Dawgs opened as a massive favorite (-24) over the Vols, and are expected by most to have an easy victory for their program. As for Tennessee, they look to pull off a signature victory and upset for the ages off on Saturday.
So what should you watch out for on a Saturday? Well for Georgia, the story will likely be the big boys up front. Georgia has the best Offensive Line in the nation and we are in no way exaggerating. O-Line Coach, Sam Pittman is the highest-paid position coach in the nation and he is earning every penny of it. Georgia’s Offensive Line will give Jake Fromm as much time as he needs to throw, especially considering one of Tennessee’s biggest weaknesses is the defensive line, in particular, the pass rush. As for the run game, this will be a similar story. It is no secret that Georgia has elite running backs, and with a massive O-Line bullying a weak Tennessee D-Line, you can expect the Dawgs to have a huge day on the ground. Essentially, Georgia is elite through the air and on the ground which will make it even more difficult to pull off an upset against UGA. When the Vols were able to stun Kentucky last season, they shut down a one-dimensional Kentucky offense. The key to upsetting UK was simple, if you shutdown Benny Snell and the Kentucky run game, you shutdown the entire Wildcats offense. As for Georgia, UT would have to shut down the pass and run game.
As for Tennessee’s offense, the story will unfold at the quarterback situation. The entire week will likely be spent speculating who will get the start. Jeremy Pruitt was asked who the starter may be, he responded with a sarcastic “we aren’t giving Georgia a scouting report.” Pruitt isn’t giving us anything to report on the QB position, so everything after this line is purely speculation. The talk around Knoxville is that Jarrett Guarantano will get the start, but that is purely talk. It is also worth noting that for what it’s worth, Guarantano was taking most of the 1st team reps at practice.
It is worth noting that Tennessee is elite at receiver, with seniors Jauan Jennings, Marquez Callaway, and Josh Palmer the problem thus far in the season has been getting them the football. The quarterback position is having trouble getting the football to these playmakers which have resulted in many struggles on the offense. If Tennessee has fixed this and can get the ball to Jennings, Callaway, and Palmer then they may stand a legitimate chance to upset the Dawgs.
As always, the Volunteer Roadshow Staff’s Preview will be up on Thursday. You can watch the Vols and Dawgs go at it on the gridiron on Saturday on ESPN, or come meet Billy Ratliff, Bobby, myself, and the rest of the Volunteer Roadshow team at our watch party at Tennessee Tap House.
Luke A. Thomas
Luke was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and grew up with a passion for SEC Football.
His career in journalism started in 2016 when he covered his hometown MTSU Blue Raiders. He would later go on to cover the local Vanderbilt Commodores before he would begin covering the Volunteers. He wrote for SBNation, covering UT Athletics before joining Volunteer Roadshow in May of 2019. At Volunteer Roadshow he covers all things Tennessee, with a focus on UT Football and Basketball.