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Georgia Football

Final Feelings: Must-Read Before Georgia-Tennessee

October 8, 2020

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Matt’s Final Feelings

Alright ya’ll,  it’s Tennessee week.

Growing up in north Georgia in the 90s, the Tennessee game was always a big deal. I had more Tennessee and Auburn buddies growing up than anyone else. There weren’t a ton of Florida or Alabama fans in my cool group of friends. Alabama didn’t become “cool” until I was in high school, and Florida is… Florida.

I’ll always remember the 2001 “Hobnail Boot” game. I had a game myself that morning against our rivals over at Sharon Springs. Those rich kids with their Abercrombie and shark-tooth necklaces had nothing on my Midway Park crew. We were the tough and gritty team from the west side of town. I was a dominating little safety and played one of the games of my life. My cousin got married on that day in 2001, and I was the only member of my extended family that didn’t have to go. 

So I stayed the weekend with a friend of mine, and they were a big Tennessee family. When Greene hit Haynes in the end zone I learned about five new curse words from by buddies’ dad. Ironically, they went to church with us, so that’s why my parents let me stay with them all weekend. Boy, he was mad. REALLY mad.

The Vols are going to have a HARD time moving the ball on Georgia’s defense. They probably have the 2nd-best offensive line that Georgia will see all year, but that’s about it. They have zero playmakers on the outside that can make plays against Georgia’s secondary. They MIGHT be able to break off one 20+ yard gain on the ground, but they won’t get over the 100-yard mark.

They certainly won’t be able to throw it. They’re not going to run it much on Georgia’s front seven, either. They’ve beaten some bad teams dating back to last year, but the Dawgs are on a different level.

Kirby needs to embarrass the Vols if the opportunity is there. Get up early and put rub their nose in it. They need to score 40 in this game and have this one over early. It’s a 3:30 CBS game so the entire country will be watching. Kirby Smart took it easy on Gus and the Tigers in the 4th quarter last week. That shouldn’t happen against Pruitt and the Vols.

I’ll take Georgia 31-10. This game will feel like it’s over at the half, and I think Kirby Smart will let his foot off the gas. I think we’ll see a game similar to the Auburn game. Georgia needs to dominate up front and be able to run the football consistently. If they do that, this game is over at the half. 

As for the Falcons, just go ahead and tank. Fire Dan Quinn later today. Then do your best to be worse than the Jets. That’s going to be tough, but hey, it’s the Falcons. But in classic Falcon fashion, they’ll find a way to win 3 of the next 4 as they come to the easiest part of the schedule. Any win for the Falcons right now is a long-term loss. I’m actively pulling for the Falcons to go 1-15 and clean house. Then draft Trevor Lawrence, with hopefully another head coach and general manager; then start this bad boy from scratch. That’s what Coach DeBray would do.

I’ve had a blast watching my Braves the last two or so months. I’m not celebrating just yet because they still need one more win over the Fish. If the Marlins win the final three games and steal this series from the Braves then I’m giving them the Falcons treatment. But in all seriousness: they aren’t better than the Dodgers, so just making it to the NLCS is good enough for me. I get the Reds and Marlins are BAD teams, but I’ll take it. Let’s finish this series off on Thursday and rest up for the Dodgers. 

Dylan’s Final Feelings

“Dylan, you have to admit, this is the best chance we have had at y’all since 2016.” 

“Broooo, don’t sleep on Tennessee so hard. We could actually beat y’all this year. We’re lowkey sick.” 

Look, I’ve never had much hate for Tennessee fans. They aren’t as in-your-face as Auburn fans, not as pretentious as Tech people, and they aren’t as Aggie-like as the Aggies.

To be honest, I even kind of liked them. The dude with the squirrel from last year? A top-10 fan in the SEC. 

But these texts from my friends at Tennessee are so damn annoying. Like sure, maybe this is the closest Tennessee has been to Georgia since that 2016 game, but does it matter at all? No. In 2017, Tennessee was lightyears behind Georgia. Maybe they are a few lightyears closer now, but that makes such a nominal difference.

Georgia is going to roll the Vols, and I’m not saying that just because these Tennessee fans keep bugging me about it. Georgia is a better team across the board. Literally, can you think of a position group (maybe even position) that is better than Georgia’s? I can’t think of one. Nothing. Zip. Nada. 

The Dawgs are going to win this game handily. Two-line? I’ll take that, easy money. Matt said he’s bet his entire Dawg Post paycheck on it. I’m not sure if I’m there, but I don’t think I’m far. Georgia wins this game 38-10. 

As for the Horns…. It’s Red River weekend baby! 

What’s better than a 22-ranked Texas vs. an unranked Oklahoma squad duking it out for a shot to become the best mediocre team in the Big 12? 

Instead of debating who will win this game, let’s discuss this—Right now, is the American Conference better than the Big 12? My first thought is no, but I think it’s worth exploring (which speaks volumes as to how bad the Big 12 is). 

The clearest example we have is Oklahoma State vs. Tulsa. OK State is the Big 12’s best team right now, and Tulsa is, generously, the AAC’s third-best team. When they played, Tulsa lost only 16-7.

If you had a matchup weekend, where you pitted the most equal teams against each other, I would take the Big 12 to come out of the weekend with a winning record. But that record would look something like 6-4, maybe 5-5, with Texas certainly dropping the ball to someone like SMU or Navy.

Ok, back to the Red River Shootout. The Sooners are against the ropes here. It would be an absolute embarrassment to the program to lose three games to open Big 12 play, the third in which is to your arch-rival. 

For Texas, however, losses like last weekend aren’t embarrassing. Embarrassment would insinuate that losses like what they had against TCU are gaffes and don’t happen often. No, that is normal. Losing a second one? Expected. I’ll take the Sooners this weekend to win and cover the -2.5 they’re at as I write this.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to watch either with great attention this weekend. My girlfriend’s sister is getting married on Saturday (Fall weddings—why are these a thing?) and they’ve been vague on the TV situation. I don’t want to be pushy about it, but it is also crucial to my enjoyment at this event. Don’t they care about that? 

Dean’s Final Feelings

Kirby Smart has talked about how Tennessee is further along than Auburn. I think we can say that after Saturday night, but the main reason is that Auburn has played Georgia - the Vols have not. 

An SEC insider warned me on Sunday that there would be much discussion about this game, and the chance Tennessee has. He told me not to buy it in the least. 

“You are going to see everyone try to make this one of those games where Georgia needs to watch out,” he said. “I’ve seen Tennessee live. They aren’t in Georgia’s league. They just aren’t.”

That was their take, and I’m pretty close to that take as well. When you watch the Vols you see a team that’s come along. But are they on the level of something like Georgia right now? This is akin to what Miami has done so far this season. Actually, the Canes have looked better than Tennessee, but that’s probably only because of the beating Miami put on FSU. And FSU is about as bad a program as there is in Power Five football right now. 

Still, Miami has twice scored 47 points or more. “Perhaps” they can stick with Clemson for a while. And let’s be honest, too: Clemson has shown over time they can lose any game they play. Since 2016, Clemson has lost to Pitt (+21.5) and Syracuse (+23.5), but Miami is totally on the radar for the Tigers in a way those two teams were not on those days. 

My suspicion is that Clemson will handle their business Saturday night. 

Back to the Dawgs: Kirby Smart has suffered a massive upset once since the 2017 season, and that came a season ago during an inexplicable loss to South Carolina (+21). Georgia is 20-1 in its last 21 games as a double-digit favorite. And while it depends a little on “how” large a double digit favorite you are, statistically speaking teams that are favored over ten points in a game should win “about” 80% of the time. Once you start getting over 20 the percentage chance of a win really grows higher. 

That Clemson and Georgia have combined to lose three times in recent memory as 20-plus point favorites seems hard to understand, but, clearly, it happens. 

But will it happen on Saturday? Man, that’s hard to see. 

Watch the Tennessee offensive line. The talking point is about how good their offensive line is. I think the question should be better phrased: How good is the Tennessee offensive line not compared to the rest of its team, but compared to the rest of the SEC?

So far it looks to me like the Vols’ offensive line is better than Auburn’s, but not as good as Georgia’s or Alabama’s, and “perhaps” not as good as Texas A&M’s and the Gators’. I think you could make an argument (one that you might not win) about how the Vols’ offensive line is slightly above the middle of the pack in the SEC. 

I think what is clear is that Tennessee’s offensive line is clearly its best unit. The running backs and linebackers are probably their second best units. The Vols’ receivers are not what they have been. You can throw on Tennessee for sure - go watch both of their games this season. 

The middle of the field is open. Backs and tight ends are open a lot. And if you have a playmaker like South Carolina’s Shi Smith, you can do some very real damage on this Tennessee team. 

Jarrett Guarantano has been given a lot of praise of late, and he does seem better. But he’s still far too inaccurate with the ball. He took off running a few times in the last two games where it felt like he was leaving too quick. More than anything, however, when you watch the Vols it is clear that Guarantano’s play leaves points on the table because of his inaccuracies. All quarterbacks are inaccurate to some degree. This is being inaccurate in a way that is noticeable on any number of different types of throws - and not necessarily while being pressured. 

It should be pointed out that he was particularly bad while facing pressure. 

The Vols have been struggling on 3rd down while on offense. They have converted only 29% of third downs this season. That’s tied with Arkansas for being the worst in the SEC. The other red flag for the Vols has been red zone defense. They are tied as the worst team in the country in this category because each time a team has reached the red zone against the Vols it has scored. Georgia has the same stat, but UGA has only allowed two red zone scores, both FGs, to the Vols’ five total, which amounted to 27 total points. 

Tennessee’s line is going to have to deal with the slew of pass rushers coming from different spots. Auburn was clueless on that front, and Bo Nix was getting pressured from what turned out to be a four-man rush that was simply three men rushing with a delayed blitz from the Dawgs. 

Georgia also came with five, and six-man rushes. There was a lot to deal with and defend, and Auburn was just plain lost. Will the same be the case for Tennessee this week? It is one thing to know when a blitz is coming. It is quite another to understand where it is coming from, and then deal with the team speed Georgia has. 

No matter who this Georgia defense plays this year - Ohio State, Clemson, Kansas City - they are going to give that offense trouble. 

The real problem for the Vols could be that the offensive line, which is the strength of the program, is going to have to deal with a Georgia defensive front that is also problematic. Jordan Davis’ matchup with Tennessee starting center Michael Maietti should be problematic for the Vols. 

Missouri flashed against Maietti enough to where it was noticeable. Davis, who has been very difficult to deal with at times during his career, could have a big day Saturday right in the middle of the Vols’ strength. 

In addition, when the Vols needed to close the game out against South Carolina - up four with the ball and USC with no timeouts - they went backwards 17 yards. Carolina then went full Carolina mode and suffered a turnover on the ensuing punt. 

The other issue for the Vols is the kicking game. Brent Cimaglia has been struggling this season. He’s 1 of 3 on FG kicks this fall, and these have not been good-looking kicks. In the kickoff game, the Vols have kicked it off 11 times with four non-touchbacks and a ball out of bounds. 

That might not seem so bad in the grand scheme of things. Maybe this is the game where Tennessee blasts it out of the end zone every time. But it is looking like Georgia, which is averaging 43 yards a return on kickoffs (No. 3 in the nation), is going to get a good look at about one or two returns. 

That’s not ideal. 

The Vols also had some weird punt situation against South Carolina where the punter didn’t cleanly handle the ball, and the Vols turned it over on downs because he didn’t get the punt away. 

Also, too, Jim Chaney is still going to try to get wide - grab the edge with jet sweeps and just wide plays. He did that a fair amount against South Carolina, but you should know that already from Chaney’s time at Georgia. 

Much of what worked against Carolina and Missouri won’t work against Georgia. Speed kills. 

In addition, although I’ve written a ton about the Tennessee offense, the Vols’ defense was gashed in the fourth quarter on the ground against South Carolina. Back-to-back-to-back running plays moved the Cocks down the field in a meaningful way. The left side of Tennessee’s defensive line was getting whipped, and didn’t set anything that resembled an edge. Mike Bobo wore out that side of the ball in the fourth. Frankly, a lot was open in the fourth against Tennessee for the Cocks, but that side of the ball was obvious.

Georgia is buttoned up in a way that Auburn, Arkansas, South Carolina and Tennessee are not. Alabama is buttoned up in a way that few other teams I have seen (probably Georgia and Clemson) have been. The Vols’ eight-game winning streak was fun while it lasted. 

It ends Saturday. 

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