It’s Tennessee week, Dawg Nation, and we have no shortage of reporters and pundits doubting UGA.
Clay Travis has made Tennessee and the points his “blood bank guarantee” and gives the Vols the victory if Jarrett Guarantano plays well. Tom Fornelli is basing his selection of Tennessee and the points based on “feel [rather] than trends”, and Barrett Sallee agrees with taking Tennessee and the points. In fact, five of the seven CBS college football writers are taking the Vols plus the points.
Now, all of these writers save for Travis are solely taking the points, and some have explicitly stated they believe Georgia will still win. However, these predictions seem to be based on gut feels and narratives rather than statistics. Look, sometimes you need to follow your hunch – detectives from the 1920s-1940s followed their hunches all the time prior to DNA and were able to capture the villains. But this is 2020, and we have more sophisticated ways of formulating a hypothesis.
For instance, Georgia boasts the SEC’s best passing and rushing defense by a significant margin, while Tennessee has the league’s second-best rushing offense. Pro Football Focus confirms these stats with their grading system, showing that the Dawgs have the fourth best rushing defense in the nation and Tennessee owning the highest graded rushing attack in the league. However, Tennessee has just the 10th best passing attack in the SEC. Don’t let Clay Travis fool you: Guarantano still has a lot more to prove, and he in no way should be considered the best quarterback in this game. The Dawgs will stack the box and force the Vols to throw it to beat the them.
On the flip side, the Dawgs’ backfield led by Zamir White is the third best in the SEC, while Tennessee’s run defense is in the middle of the pack. UGA will look to, and more than likely, be able to establish the run which will allow Stetson Bennett to find George Pickens and Kearis Jackson in open positions.
These offensive and defensive stats are based on only two weeks’ worth of football, and much can still change. However, Georgia has defeated an Auburn team that was ranked #7 when they squared off and an Arkansas team that held Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense to half the passing yards they accrued against LSU. Tennessee has only faced two teams projected to finish towards the bottom of the SEC East in South Carolina and Missouri. Georgia has the better body of work thus far, while this will be Tennessee’s first true test of 2020.
Additionally, this game is being played Between the Hedges. While a reduced crowd capacity may weaken the home field advantage slightly, it still will take a Herculean effort for the Vols to come to the Classic City and keep the game close, let alone win.
Make no mistake, the Volunteers boast their best team since 2016, and it took an infamous Hail Mary to defeat Kirby Smart’s weakest Georgia team in Athens that year. Tennessee will give the Dawgs every ounce they can give, but this is still a flawed Tennessee team and I, for one, am not doubting what I’ve seen from Stetson Bennett and the Dawgs.
Georgia wins 31-13.
As always - wash your hands, wear your masks, and GO DAWGS!!!