Jeremy Pruitt and the Big Orange are now 2-0 as they head to Athens this Saturday to take on the #3 Georgia Bulldogs.
Tennessee beat the Missouri Tigers 35-12 last weekend in Neyland. Jarrett Guarantano went 14/23 with 190 yards, 1 passing TD, and 2 rushing TDs.
Guarantano’s 2 rushing TDs now puts him in 2nd in rushing TDs in the SEC.
Tennessee also managed to go 4/4 on 4th downs as well in their win.
Eric Gray had 16 carries for 105 yards, a rushing TD, and a receiving TD. This is the first time Tennessee has started off the season 2-0 since 2017.
The Vols will now face their first tough challenge of the season, the Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia is ranked #3 in the AP polls and are coming off an impressive 27-6 win against #7 Auburn. A win that saw Georgia’s defense held Auburn to just 216 of total offense and 39 total rushing yards.
A win in Athens would make a statement towards the SEC that the Vols are back. In order for Tennessee to get their first win against a top 10 opponent since 2006, This is what the Vols need to do:
Kicking Game Must Improve
The kicking game has been absolutely abysmal for the Vols so far this season. This comes as a shock for many Vol fans so far.
Senior Brent Cimaglia, who earned the nickname Automaglia last season, has been far from Automatic. Cimaglia is only 1-3 so far this year in field goals, missing one from 46 yards against South Carolina, and missing one from 39 yards last weekend vs. Missouri.
This needs to change ASAP.
Georgia’s defense will be in their A-game and will not allow many goal line situations for the Vols. This means that there will be situations where we will have to rely on Brett Cimaglia. If Cimaglia can find a way to get out of this funk and be the All-SEC kicker, we know him as we will have a better shot of shocking the Dawgs.
Defense Must Be Lights Out
Tennessee did a great job last weekend on stopping Shawn Robinson and Larry Rountree.
Robinson went for 1/4 passing with 0 yards before being subbed out for Connor Bazelak. Rountree only managed to get 16 carries for 84 yards and a rushing touchdown.
While Tennessee did manage to grab an interception, they did also allowed 344 yards of total offense. This isn’t necessarily bad, but Tennessee will need to make sure to put pressure on Georgia’s young offensive line come Saturday.
Despite this, there was still a lot of great performances from Tennessee’s defense. Trevon Flowers 10 tackles and a TFL.
Henry To’o To’o once again had another impressive performance: racking up 6 tackles and a TFL. Deandre Johnson also managed to get another sack last weekend as well.
The great news for the Vols is that Shawn Shamburger is finally back and will play in the STAR position. Bryce Thompson is also expected to be 100% and play a full 60 minutes come Saturday.
Much like Missouri, Georgia’s biggest liability on their offense is their offense. Georgia is replacing nearly every starter on their offensive line. Georgia is still hasn’t exactly found their answer yet at Quarterback.
While Stetson Bennett is expected to be their starter, it would not be a surprise to play JT Daniels or Dwayne Mathis.
Despite these uncertainties, one thing that is certainly certain is how much of a threat WR George Pickens is. Pickens has had 53 passes graded catchable in his career. This means he has never had a single catchable pass thrown his way he did not make. That is an unbelievable stat.
Expect Bryce Thompson to be teamed up with Pickens all game.
Despite how much of a threat Pickens is, there is still a lot of doubt among Georgia’s offense. They do not have the traditional threats at quarterback or running back this year. They also do not have the great offensive line that Kirby Smart has had for most of his tenure at Georgia. This is a perfect opportunity for the Vols defense to make Saturday a living hell for Georgia’s offense. If Bryce Thompson can contain George Pickens and Vols front seven can put pressure on Georgia’s O-Line, Tennessee will have a great shot of pulling off the upset.
Offense Can Not Make Any Mistakes
I can not emphasize this enough. If Tennessee wants a chance in this game, the offense can not make any mistakes and play a near perfect game come Saturday.
The Vols offense has done a great job so far when it comes to that; they have yet to commit a turnover this season. They have also managed to rack up points so far, scoring 31 against South Carolina and 35 against Missouri. Averaging 33 points a game.
However, this Georgia defense will be, without a shadow of a doubt, the toughest defense they will face all season. Georgia’s defense has been incredible so far, only allowing 8 points a game and 248 yards of total offense so far.
However, it is worth noting that this will be the toughest and strongest offensive line Georgia has faced. Nicknamed the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Vols offensive line is the backbone of this offense.
Tennessee has done a pretty good job at giving protection to Jarett Guarantano, allowing only 4 sacks all season. Having enough time should not be a problem for Jarrett Guarantano as well.
Guarantano has done a great job so far, not committing a single turnover. For a win on Saturday, the Senior must continue this trend. Also, Guarantano must improve on the short swing passes and continuing connecting the long ball. He must be smart with the football and throw it away if he does not see anything.
Tennessee will also need the run game to have a good day to open up the defense. If Eric Gray and Ty Chandler can continue their impressive performances from Saturday, this will help Tennessee tremendously.
If the Vols can improve the kicking game, put pressure on Georgia’s offense, and make no mistakes on offense, Jeremy Pruitt will get that statement win he’s been waiting for, and Tennessee will get their first win against a top 10 opponent since 2006.