In some ways, this game was a blow to whatever fleeting notion Tennessee had of winning the SEC East. It was always unlikely that the Volunteers, with a schedule that included a trip to Oxford and a home game against Alabama would end with Tennessee representing its division in Atlanta, and every loss against a team in the SEC East takes a chunk of out a very narrow margin for error.
But if all the other wins on Tennessee's schedule to this point have come with significant caveats, and if the loss to Oklahoma was a reminder that the Volunteers are still a rebuilding team, then fighting Georgia to a near-draw in Athens is a sign that Tennessee is closer to the SEC East's top teams than might have been assumed. That could be because those teams are a little worse than expected, but it is almost certainly also because the Volunteers are better than we thought. And it means that Tennessee could still be set up to ruin someone's season.
Georgia, of course, won the game. Not by a huge margin, and not without all the various problems we've come to expect from the Dawgs. Todd Gurley was amazing again, running for 208 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. But Georgia continued to lean too heavily on the pass and Hutson Mason continued to be an uneven quarterback, going 16-of-25 for 147 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. The longest pass of the game went for 20 yards. Georgia was 1-for-10 on third down.
And the passing defense was exposed again, particularly by Justin Worley, who went 23-of-35 for 264 yards and three touchdowns. A half-dozen receivers caught more than two passes. The Dawgs' pass rush eventually started to get to the young Tennessee offensive line later in the game, but Worley still managed to pass for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone.
Georgia survived, though, even if it left a lot of questions about how long that will last. Meanwhile, Tennessee has to scare every team on its schedule a little more than it did a few weeks ago. Florida, already becoming a trendy pick to lose to the Vols, will test Tennessee's credibility as soon as next week. And if the Volunteers pass that test, a lot of teams will be nervously glancing at a game that looked a lot easier before the season began.