For those looking to evaluate Tennessee against SEC competition, here's your chance. After a month that included wins against two mid-majors, a thumping at Oklahoma and a bye week, the Volunteers will face an SEC team that appears to be pretty good. How well Tennessee does against the Bulldogs should give us a better fix on where this team falls in the conference pecking order.
An upset, after all, vaults Tennessee into the thick of the race for the SEC East while dealing a perhaps-fatal blow to Georgia's chances. A close loss would serve as a warning to teams like South Carolina, Ole Miss and maybe even Alabama that the Vols are not to be taken lightly this year -- and could even spoil a season or two along the way. And a blowout might send Tennessee fans scrambling back to the drawing board once more, waiting for the next next year to validate their belief that things will get better soon enough.
There's at least a chance -- though probably not a good one -- of the latter possibility happening. Tennessee's offense is still struggling, averaging 4.6 yards a play (last in the SEC) and 27.3 points a game (next to last). The passing attack is mediocre and the run game is struggling; the 3.3 yards per attempt ranks dead last in the conference, trailing Vanderbilt by half a yard. The defense is decent, allowing 5.0 yards a play, but not exactly spectacular.
On the other side of the field, Georgia still looks a little bit like an enigma. Thrash Clemson, lose a close one at South Carolina and then dismantle Troy. It's not that we don't know what to make of those outcomes -- good, not bad for a loss, meh -- but that they leave a rather wide range of possibilities for how good the Dawgs are this year. The offense is actually doing rather well, with the 7.5 yards a pop tied with Alabama for second in the SEC. And the defense is better than you might think; it's allowing 4.6 yards a play.
The rushing defense is stingy, but the passing defense is ... well, let's put it this way. The only SEC teams worse than Georgia in passing efficiency defense are Arkansas, Florida, Vanderbilt and South Carolina. The Dawgs offense follows similar lines as the offense: Great when it comes to running the ball, more mixed when they have to go airborne. Of course, if Georgia can work up a decent-sized lead in this game, they can avoid having to put the ball up in the air that much.
But it looks like a dangerous game for Georgia. Tennessee is coming off of a bye after having scared the Dawgs in Knoxville last year, and the Volunteers have at times giving the Bulldogs trouble for inexplicable reasons. Butch Jones' team is almost certainly going to spring an upset somewhere along the way. Why not Georgia?
If this game were in Knoxville, I might be willing to call the upset. But it's in Athens, and Georgia is just better than Tennessee right now. And there's still Todd Gurley to call on if things get too difficult. The Volunteers will be competitive, perhaps even taking a lead at some point, before Georgia slowly starts to pull away late.
Game time: Noon ET
Live stream: WatchESPN
Brandon's prediction: Georgia 32, Tennessee 21