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Tennessee Preview

Alec Smith

The Georgia Bulldogs (-10.5) at The Tennessee Volunteers

3:30 P.M. (EST) on CBS

Broadcasters: Brad Nessler (Play by Play) and Gary Danielson (Color)




Head Coach

Kirby Smart

Josh Heupel

Record at School



2023 Record

10-0 (7-0)

7-3 (3-3)


Wow… I am not sure how many of you saw the 52-17 drubbing of Ole Miss coming, but that looked a lot better than my 44-27 prediction. While the box score may not have projected this, I think that was one of the best games that Carson Beck has played all year. That is undoubtedly the best that the offensive line has looked, as Beck went untouched for 60 minutes of football. Pause. Read that again. Against an Ole Miss defense that has been among the best in the nation at sacks and TFL’s, they did not record one on Saturday. I will have to rewatch some more tape, but I am not sure that an OM defender ever laid a finger on Beck behind the LOS. The Junkyard Dawgs played one of their better games so far as well, as the Rebels were held to just 352 yards of offense with nearly even T.O.P. numbers.

We are now ¾ of the way through the toughest stretch of this regular season, and the past is the past. With the SEC East already clinched, the Dawgs still have a lot to play for on Saturday against the #18 Vols. In my opinion, a loss on Saturday puts the Dawgs on the cusp of being out of the playoffs, even with an SECCG win over Alabama. That could be a bit farfetched, but there could be three 13-0 teams after conference championship weekend. I also believe that this will not be a year where any conference gets two teams in, meaning that we must go 13-0 to be in the CFP comfortably. Georgia is obviously a top four team in the country regardless of what happens over the next month, but there are a lot of teams that will have strong arguments if UGA has a “1” in the loss column. All of that will be settled in due time, so let us focus on the task at hand.

Series History

Tennessee and Georgia are about as close as can be when looking at the football programs. Here is a breakdown of how these two heavyweights have matched up through the years, with their national ranks in parentheses.




All-Time Win %

66.5% (13th)

67.2% (11th)

Conference Championships

15 (36th)

16 (32nd)

National Championships

4 (16th)

6 (9th)

NFL Draft Picks

371 (10th)

360 (12th)

Weeks at AP Poll #1

49 (9th)

19 (19th)

Bowl Appearances

61 (2nd)

55 (5th)

Consensus All-Americans

39 (14th)

41 (12th)


The series record is in Georgia’s favor by a total of 27-23-2, with UGA being on a 6-game win streak currently. The largest margin of victory for the Dawgs came in 1981 when Coach Dooley and Herschel Walker led the way to a 44-0 victory in Athens. Herschel running over Bill Bates, tearing down the goalposts in Sanford, The Hobnailed Boot, and countless more memorable moments have made this such a heated rivalry that dates back to 1899. In contrast, the only game that really matters is the next one. Here’s a rundown of the 2023 edition of this matchup.

Tennessee Offense

This is certainly not the Volunteer offense that Dawg fans typically expect. The Vols currently employ a zone run, spread offense that is more reliant on the run compared to their 2022 squad. Here are some stats and national rankings for the major offensive categories:




32.2 (28th)


454.7 (16th)

Rushing YPG

211.6 (7th)

Passing YPG

243.1 (50th)

YPC (Run)

5.5 (6th)

YPA (Pass)

7.8 (44th)

Turnover Margin

+3 (T-35th)


UT currently has a run/pass split of 53.89% to 46.11%, which in that regard is similar to their offense last year; however, they are not passing the ball nearly as efficiently as they did with Hendon Hooker and company. So far in 2023, the Vols are averaging 31.3 pass attempts a game with 243.1 YPG. In 2022, the numbers were 32.5 attempts per game with 326.1 YPG. Whether it be because of Joe Milton, the loss of WR talent, or the emergence of RB’s, Tennessee needs their ground game to work to win games. In UT’s three losses this year, they ran for 100 yards on 3.3 YPC against Florida, 133 yards on 3.5 YPC against Bama, and 83 yards on 3.6 YPC last week vs. Missouri. In their two biggest wins of the year (A&M and Kentucky), the Vols ran for 232 yards (4.7 YPC) and 254 yards (5.4), respectively. Their lead back is #0 Jaylen Wright who has 848 yards on a staggering 7.2 YPC. Wright leads the team in attempts with 117 followed by Jabari Small with 85, Dylan Sampson with 74, and Joe Milton with 69. It is very rare for a run dominant team to beat Georgia, but we have seen creative running offenses give the Dawgs trouble. Last week, the Rebels did put up 179 on the ground, but that also came on 45 carries and 17 points total. Joe Milton still possesses a dangerous arm at QB, but there are no real homerun threats in their WR room that worry me. The Dawgs defense hasn’t been as good as the Georgia standard against the run, but they are still more than serviceable according to national standards. UGA’s defense ranks 17th for rush yards allowed per game and is only relinquishing 3.7 yards per carry. Georgia’s opponents throw the ball 54.93% of the time which is the 10th highest in the country. This game will require a big game from the IDL and ILB’s. In Jamon Dumas-Johnson’s absence last week, freshmen CJ Allen and Raylen Wilson shined from the “Money” or MLB position. CJ Allen led the team with 9 total tackles, with a sack and TFL to add. Another positive is that UGA has two of the better run stopping safeties in the country in Bullard and Starks. They can go four yards and a cloud of dust all day long on Saturday if they want, but their deep passing game will have to come alive to run up the score on this Dawg defense.

Tennessee Defense

The Volunteer defense has seen some improvement from 2022, but they are still a middle of the pack unit in the SEC. They defend the run well, but not great. There is much to be desired when it comes to their secondary. Tennessee’s defensive ranks and stats:



Opp. PPG

21.0 (30th)

Opp. YPG

340.8 (36th)

Opp. Rush YPG

116.9 (24th)

Opp. Pass YPG

223.9 (49th)

Opp. 3rd Down Conv. %

38.41% (56th)

Opp. Redzone Scoring

83.33% (66th)

Opp. T.O.P. %

57.84% (132nd)


There is a lot to look at there, but I want to start with that last stat, which is their opponents time of possession percentage. Yes, you are correct. Out of 133 FBS teams, Tennessee ranks 132nd in time of possession. On the other hand, UGA ranks 4th in the country in T.O.P. In the Florida game, the Gators held on to the ball for 37:28 compared to Tenn’s 22:32. For the Bama game, the split was 32:19-27:41. In last week’s thumping of UT by Missouri, the Tigers had the ball for almost 40 minutes to UT’s 20:04. Now normally that wouldn’t be a big deal for explosive air raid offenses, but that is not Tennessee’s forte this year. They do rank 20th in the country in yards per play (6.4), but UGA is 4th in the nation with 7.1 yards per play. Another interesting statistic is the Volunteers’ penalty numbers. They currently rank 120th+ in penalties per play, penalties per game, and penalty yards per game. Neyland will be loud, and that fanbase has UGA’s number, BUT… can they clean all of that up in one week? Mike Bobo’s offense is averaging 4.3 penalties for 41.4 yards per game, which ranks 10th and 23rd nationally. I believe that even the staunchest Mike Bobo deniers have been converted by now. In case you haven’t… check these out:


UGA Off.


39.8 (6th)


498.7 (6th)


0.567 (7th)


7.1 (4th)

3rd Down Conv. %

56.76% (1st)

4th Down Conv. %

85.71% (1st)

Redzone Scoring %

92.31% (15th)


Just to reiterate, those are NATIONAL RANKINGS… not SEC ranks. Unreal showing from Beck and co. so far. The Dawgs offense has gotten healthy at just the right time with Bowers and Mims coming back last week. Our receiving threats will likely be too much for the Volunteer DB’s. They do have 14 players with a recorded sack and an 8.36% sack rate (24th), but if the Oline replicates their performance from last week then the Vols are in for a long day. A few orange jerseys to watch out for: DL #27 James Pearce Jr. (sack leader), LB #44 Elijah Herring (tackle leader), CB #1 Gabe Jeudy-Lally (#1 CB, tied for 1st in PD’s).


On paper, Georgia wins this game big. Our offense has finally hit full stride and many of the Bulldog strengths align with Tenn’s weaknesses. They also happen to play this game we love on the field and not on the computer. Neyland Stadium will be loud and rowdy, and there is nothing that Josh Heupel would want to do more than derail UGA’s season. I think the Dawgs escape Knoxville in ugly fashion. Somewhere in the 34-27 range feels right to me, which would not cover the -10.5 spread or over the 59-point total.

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