With the way that Tennessee played against lowly UMass and the way that Georgia absolutely rose to the challenge against a good Mississippi State team, it was probably inevitable that some would conclude that the Georgia Bulldogs would be overwhelming favorites over the Tennessee Volunteers this week. Even I significantly downgraded our chances earlier this week.
So, I was surprised to learn on Monday that Georgia was only a 7.5-point favorite in the game, but I had to take note because, hey, who knows more about hangovers than Vegas, right? And then I checked ESPN’s FPI and found that Georgia had only a 69.5% chance to win. What about S&P+, what did it have to say? Georgia, 63%, with a projected score of 29.7 to 24. That’s a picture of a clear favorite, of course, but it’s certainly not overwhelming.
Let’s take a closer look at Georgia and the relative stats of the two teams to see if any of that actually makes sense.
Georgia (4-0, 1-0 SEC, #7)
- W1: Beat Appalachian State, 31-10. QB Jacob Eason went down, but freshman Jake Fromm looked good and took care of business.
- W2: Beat #24 Notre Dame, 20-19.
- W3: Beat Samford, 42-14.
- W4: Easily handled #17 Mississippi State, 31-3.
- W5: At #25 Tennessee
- W6: At Vanderbilt
- W7: Missouri
- W8: Bye
- W9: vs. #22 Florida
- W10: South Carolina
- W11: At #13 Auburn
- W12: Kentucky
- W13: At Georgia Tech
That schedule to date is ranked as the nation’s 10th most difficult. For comparison’s sake, Tennessee’s schedule is ranked 107th. Keep that in mind as we look at the stats.
But really, the Bulldogs’ resume only consists of a one-point victory over a barely-ranked team (like the Vols were recently), and one solid thumping of a team we think is probably pretty good, although we don’t know yet for sure because its reputation was built on beating LSU, another team many have have been very wrong about.
Statsy Preview Calculator
Tennessee is averaging 156.5 rushing yards per game, but Georgia is giving up only 97.5 per game. The closest comparison, for a prior Tennessee opponent that is not as good at run defense as Georgia, is Georgia Tech, which is giving up only 100.3 yards per game on the ground. Tennessee got 148 against them. Georgia does feature the best run defense the Vols have seen so far this year, but that Yellow Jackets number is pretty close to what the Bulldogs are doing. Based on all of that, I’m going to guess that Tennessee gets only slightly less than its average on the ground and nets 150.
The Tennessee defense is allowing 242.3 rushing yards per game, a number that is perhaps inflated to a degree due to playing Georgia Tech’s flexbone in the first game of the season. The Bulldogs run game is averaging 223.3 yards per game. The closest “not-as-good” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Indiana State, but it’s not really close enough to tell us much as they’re averaging only 129.7 yards per game on the ground. The Sycamores got 122 against Tennessee. The closest “better-than” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is also not particularly helpful as that team is Georgia Tech, which is averaging 393.7 rushing yards per game and got 535 against Tennessee. I’m going to guess that Georgia will get more than their average against Tennessee, but it won’t be as bad as it was against the Yellow Jackets. I’m going with 300 rushing yards for Georgia against Tennessee’s defense.
Tennessee is averaging 224.8 passing yards per game, and Georgia is allowing 172.0. The closest “not-as-good” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is UMass, which is giving up 218.4 yards per game through the air. The Vols put up 184 against them in a listless effort. The closest “better-than” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Georgia Tech. They’re allowing 164.0 passing yards per game, and Tennessee got 221 against them. I’m going to say that Tennessee will put up around 200 passing yards this weekend.
The Tennessee pass defense is allowing 140.5 passing yards per game. As good as the new quarterbacks have looked, Georgia’s only averaging 166 passing yards per game. The closest “not-as-good” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is once again Georgia Tech, which is getting 93.3 yards per game through the air, and they got more than their average against Tennessee with 120. The closest “better-than” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Florida, which is averaging 200.7 passing yards per game and got 212 against Tennessee. I’m going with Georgia putting up their average of about 170 passing yards against Tennessee.
Tennessee is averaging 30.3 points per game, but that number is somewhat inflated by a double overtime game during which they scored an extra 14 points in extra periods. Georgia is allowing only 11.5 points per game. The closest “not-as-good” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Georgia Tech, which is allowing 23.0 points per game, and Tennessee got 28 against them in regulation. This will be toughest scoring defense the Vols have faced this season. Taking all of that together, I’m going to say that the Vols score somewhere around 24 points against Georgia.
Tennessee is allowing 21.8 points per game, and Georgia is averaging 31. The closest “not-as-good” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Florida, which is averaging 23.7 points, and they got 26 against Tennessee. The closest “better-than” comparison for a prior Tennessee opponent is Georgia Tech, which is averaging 37.7 points and got 28 in regulation against Tennessee. I’m going with Georgia putting up about 31 points against Tennessee.
- Tennessee rushing yards: 150
- Georgia rushing yards: 300
- Tennessee passing yards: 200
- Georgia passing yards: 170
- Tennessee points: 24
- Georgia points: 31
Current betting lines
The result that the statsy preview calculator spit out looks a lot like the current spread, which is 7.5 for this game with an over/under of 47.5. So maybe that is about right, and maybe the game figures to be much closer than most think.
What does Georgia do especially well and not especially well?
National Unit Rankings
Offensive observations. From the stats, it would appear that Georgia is a run-first offense that likes to take a chance downfield in the passing game every once in a while. When they complete a pass, it’s generally a long one, but their completion percentage and overall passing offense isn’t really very good. They’re really not very good on first down or at putting points on the board, either. But make no mistake, everything keys off Georgia’s run game, which is so good that it forces you to over-commit to stopping it so that you can no longer defend even a below-average passing attack. And remember, Tennessee’s defense hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, so Georgia may not have to be very good on offense to have a good day. But if they can strike the right balance between mitigating the damage in the running game without also giving up an occasional deep pass, they could do well.
Defensive observations. It may come as a bit of a surprise when you think about Nick Chubb and three other guys just like him, but the strength of the Bulldogs’ team actually appears to be its defense. They are good across the board, except that they don’t do an especially good job at generating sacks or tackles for loss. Other than that, they are quite strong — against the run, against the pass, on every down — and they’re especially good at keeping opponents out of the end zone. Tennessee’s offense is in for a challenging day against this group.
Special teams observations. Don’t expect much in the punt return game from either team Saturday. The Vols do appear to have an advantage in the kick return game, but kicker Rodrigo Blankenship has put 19 of 24 kickoffs into the end zone so far this season, so the Vols’ may not even be able to get off the ground there. And Georgia’s pretty good at kick returns, too.
Turnovers and Penalties observations.
Georgia does not appear to be especially well-disciplined from a penalties perspective, so perhaps there are some hidden yards to be had there.
Players to Watch
Quarterback Jacob Eason was only 1-of-3 before leaving the first game due to injury and being replaced by true freshman Jake Fromm. Fromm, though, has done well, going 43-of-69 with seven touchdowns and one interception.
The leading receiver on the team so far is junior Terry Godwin, who’s caught eight passes for 214 yards and four touchdowns. Senior receiver Javon Wims also has eight catches, and sophomore receiver Mecole Hardman has seven. Running back D’Andre Swift has six receptions, and tight end Isaac Nauta has four.
What makes this team go, though, is the running game. Senior Nick Chubb is leading the way with 59 carries for 371 yards, but three other backs have at least 20 carries as well. Senior Sony Michel has 36 for 192 yards, Swift has 27 for 196, and sophomore Brian Herrien has another 24 for 77 yards.
Junior defensive lineman Trenton Thompson has three solo tackles for loss and 12 tackles so far this season. The team’s current sack leader is senior linebacker Lorenzo Carter, who has three. And the most active defensive backs are junior Deandre Baker (five passes defended, four pass breakups, and an interception) and senior Dominick Sanders (three passes defended, two pass breakups, and an interception).