Tennessee travels to Georgia Saturday looking for its first top 10 win since 2006, against the third-ranked Bulldogs.
Georgia enters the matchup 2-0 after a shaky opening game win against Arkansas and a dominant home win over then No. 7 Auburn. Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt has said multiple times that Georgia, “doesn’t have a weakness.” Let’s take a look at the third-ranked Bulldogs.
Three-year starting quarterback Jake Fromm is gone, leaving Athens a year early to test his NFL prospects. Replacing him has been an adventure for head coach Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs.
Georgia brought in transfer quarterbacks Jamie Newman and J.T. Daniels this offseason. Newman was the expected starter before deciding to opt out of the 2020 season. Daniels, who tore his ACL last fall at USC, is cleared to play but still hasn’t seen action while recovering from injury.
D’Wan Mathis got the start in the Bulldogs’ opener, playing poorly in the first half before getting benched. Georgia turned to former walk on Stetson Bennett IV who hasn’t let go of the starting job since earning it.
"He obviously is a smart young man,” Pruitt said “You can see him getting in and out of plays. He moves wide receivers if they've got somebody that they can't block on the perimeter. He gets them in position. He gets the ball out of his hand and doesn't take sacks. He plays with confidence and I've got a lot of respect for him by the way he's played in the two games that he's come in.”
Bennett has thrown for 451 yards and three touchdowns while not turning the ball over in two games.
Georgia’s offense still prides itself on running the football. Through two weeks, the Bulldogs have the second most carries in the conference. The Bulldogs 161 yards per game on the ground ranks third in the SEC and thirty-thirdnationally.
“They're physical at the line of scrimmage and out on the perimeter they've got good running backs,” Pruitt said. “Good skill players that get the guys the ball and give you multiple looks.”
Five different Bulldog running backs have carried the football this season with Zamir White leading the way with 32 carries for 159 yards.
“That they do a great job of running that offense, especially behind their big o-line,” linebacker Henry To’o To’o said. “They try to run the ball. They get it out as fast as they can, so we’ve just got to be able to contain them. They both can move; they both have good vision on where to put the ball and ball placement.”
As is the case with most of Kirby Smart’s teams, the defense is the strength of this team. The Bulldogs’ defense ranks third nationally in total yards, fourth in scoring defense, third in rushing yards and tenth in passes intercepted.
“They have good players,” Pruitt said. “They're multiple with their schemes. They do a really nice job playing man-to-man. They deny the ball. They mix in a lot of different looks. You have to protect the quarterback. You have to be able to establish a run game a little bit to take pressure off the quarterback. You have to be able to throw and catch the football. There's going be tight windows. There always is against teams that play good defense in this league.”
Georgia’s defense is loaded in all three levels, making teams pick their poison when attacking them. Expect Tennessee to go strength on strength and to run the ball at Georgia Saturday.
With Hurricane Delta making its way up the Gulf of Mexico, expected to hit the Louisiana coast, bad weather is expected throughout the south this weekend. Rain is in the forecast all Saturday in Athens and could play a role in deciding the victor.
"We just worry about the things that we can control and take advantage of,” Pruitt said of Saturday’s forecast. “Today was a great day to go out there and get better, and I think our team did that. If it rains Saturday, it'll be wet on both sides. We'll just go play ball."
Kickoff from Sanford Stadium is set for 3:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on CBS.