Georgia (4-0) enters its first SEC East matchup of the season undefeated and ranked seventh in the nation, as they will face Tennessee (3-1) Saturday.
The Bulldogs have opened the season strong in Kirby Smart’s second season as head coach, as they have won two ranked match-ups. In their second game of the season, they defeated No. 24 Notre Dame 20-19 in South Bend, Indiana. Last weekend, they throttled No. 17 Mississippi State and star quarterback Nick Fitzgerald 31-3 at home.
After Jacob Eason injured his knee in Georgia’s first game against Appalachian State, freshman quarterback Jake Fromm has been more than a competent replacement. The Warner Robins, Georgia native has been efficient and nearly mistake free as the Bulldogs starting quarterback, as he has thrown seven touchdowns and just one interception this season.
Last weekend against Mississippi State, Fromm went 9-12 for 201 yards and two touchdowns, including a 59-yard flea flicker touchdown pass on Georgia’s first offensive play from scrimmage.
Fromm will look to have a strong performance in another big game for Georgia, but this weekend’s match-up might be his most difficult of his short career as the Bulldogs’ quarterback. Tennessee’s defense ranks as the 11th best team in the nation for defending the pass, as they give up just 140.5 yards per game through the air.
While going on the road against a good defense against the pass might be difficult for a freshman quarterback, Georgia’s offense could capitalize on the Volunteers’ weak rushing defense. The Bulldogs have a strong duo of senior running backs in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, as they have combined for 563 yards and eight touchdowns this season. Freshman D’Andre Swift also has performed well this season, as he has rushed for 192 yards and a touchdown in 2017.
Georgia’s offense could find success trying to run the ball heavily against Tennessee, as the Volunteers’ have the sixth worse rushing defense in the country, giving up over 242 yards per game.
Defensively, the Bulldogs will have their eyes on junior Volunteer running back John Kelly, who leads the SEC in rushing yards this season with 450 yards and also has scored six touchdowns. Kelly has worn down defenses throughout the season, most notably in Tennessee’s season opener against Georgia Tech as he rushed for 128 yards and four touchdowns. Kelly also had plenty of success against Florida, as he gained 141 yards and a touchdown against the Gators.
While Georgia is the favorite entering this game, the Volunteers could very well put up a strong fight. If it weren’t for a Hail Mary against Florida on the game’s final play, Tennessee likely would be entering this game 4-0. With the game in a tough environment in Neyland Stadium, the Volunteers will likely make this game a tough battle for the Bulldogs.