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Georgia-Tennessee: One of the Most Important College Football Games of the Season

Before the days of the College Football Playoff, games between #1 and #2 were a special treat. In the past, various conferences had deals with specific bowl games for their teams to play there, negating the possibility of getting the best possible match-up.

While the College Football Playoff has allowed us to get the “best possible match-up” at the end of each season, there’s something a little more special about it when you get an in-conference version of it.

Georgia-Tennessee has a storied rivalry tradition. They are the 2nd and 3rd most successful programs in SEC football history behind Alabama. Georgia leads the all-time series 26-23. A (most likely) undefeated season and a berth in the SEC Championship Game are on the line in Athens this week.

Tennessee: Hendon Hooker vs Georgia’s Defense

Coming into the game, a lot has been made about the high-octane offense of the Tennessee Volunteers. They run a lot of plays while on offense, fueled by Heisman hopeful Hendon Hooker and an ever-emerging cast of skill players that will find their way onto NFL rosters next season.

Tennessee’s offense moves fast when they’re on the field. Half of the Volunteers’ scoring drives this year have been under 2 minutes. They also rank toward the bottom of Division I in terms of the time of possession. When they score, they score fast.

Georgia’s defense is ranked 2nd in the nation, allowing 10.5 points per game. Last year’s Georgia team was more of a front-seven-focused team. This year’s incarnation is built on strength in the secondary, which they’ll throw up against that vaunted Vols wide receiver corps.

Georgia Gameplan: Pressure on Hendon, Test Vols Secondary

For Georgia to win on Saturday, they’ll need to pressure Hendon Hooker. Georgia has ten sacks on the season, with three of them coming from injured edge rusher Nolan Smith. Smith is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle.

To get pressure on Hooker on Saturday, Georgia will need contributions from players like Robert
Beal, who led the Bulldogs in sacks in 2021, and Chaz Chambliss, a sophomore who had a sack against Florida last week. The pressure they bring will be imperative to a Georgia victory.

Georgia will also need to test the Volunteers’ secondary. Looking at the numbers, it appears that Tennessee’s pass defense is porous – they allow an average of 300 yards passing per game. When you dig into the unit a little more, the numbers are more respectable – they allow 6.9 yards per passing attempt, and 11.1 yards per passing completion. The Bulldogs will need to test the Volunteers secondary if they want to win on Saturday.

It’s hard to predict a game like this – when the stakes are this high, and the level of competition so high, it’s much easier to sit back and enjoy the game like a fan. I’m going to predict Georgia seals a win at home in a nail-biter – 45-42 Georgia.

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