ATHENS — Georgia has opened as a 32 1/2-point favorite over Tennessee in a rivalry game that features two teams limping in, according to Vegas Insider.
The No. 2-ranked Bulldogs (4-0, 2-0 SEC) were down five starters by the end of their 43-29 win at Missouri, including two offensive linemen and a receiver that aren’t expected to return this week.
The Vols (2-2, 0-1) are coming off a 47-21 loss to Florida, an implosion that saw Tennessee turn over the ball six times. Vols quarterback Jarrett Guarantano was knocked out of the game with a leg injury.
The Bulldogs won last season’s meeting in Knoxville, 41-0, en route to winning the SEC championship. The loss represented Tennessee’s most lopsided loss in Neyland Stadium history and the program’s worst since 1905.
The Vols triumphed the previous two seasons against Georgia, however, coming from 24-3 down to win 38-31 against a Mark Richt-coached team in 2015.
Current Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt was the defensive coordinator for Georgia in 2014 and 2015. The Bulldogs won 35-32 in the teams’ 2014 meeting in Athens.
In 2016, the Vols beat then-first-year Georgia coach Kirby Smart 34-31 between the hedges. Alpharetta’s Josh Dobbs once again engineering a comeback for Tennessee, this time from 17-0 down, connecting with current receiver Jauan Jennings on a 43-yard Hail Mary.
The Vols have 15 or 16 players on their current roster from the Peach State, depending on the status of linebacker Quart’e Sapp, who has refuted his head coach’s claim that he refused to re-enter the game against Florida.
Georgia has two players on its roster from Tennessee, including true freshman left tackle Cade Mays, who could be in line for his second career start depending on the injury status of sophomore Andrew Thomas.
Tennessee leads the all-time series 23-22-2, but Georgia is 6-3 against the Vols since they fired College Football Hall of Fame coach Phillip Fulmer during the 2008 season.
Fulmer, Tennessee’s current athletic director, owned an 11-6 mark against the Bulldogs.
Georgia is 2-2 against the spread this season.
The Bulldogs opened with a 45-0 win over FCS Austin Peay in a game they were favored to win by 48.
But Georgia beat the spread when it defeated South Carolina 41-17 as a 9-point road favorite and topped Middle Tennessee 49-7 as a 34-point favorite.
Georgia was a 13 1/2-point favorite when the opening line came out against Missouri last Sunday, but the line closed at 14 1/2 points before kickoff, thus, the 43-29 victory did not cover.
Tennessee is 0-3 against the spread this season, failing to cover in a 40-14 season-opening loss to West Virginia as a 10-point neutral site underdog.
In the 47-21 loss to Florida, the Vols were a 4-point home underdog in Neyland Stadium, where they had defeated the Gators 38-28 in the previous meeting in Knoxville.
The Vols were a 33 1/2-point favorite against UTEP this season, a game Tennessee won 24-0.
Other SEC games this week
• Alabama – 49 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
• South Carolina – 1 1/2 at Kentucky
• Auburn – 30 1/2 vs. Southern Miss
• Mississippi State -9 vs. Florida
• LSU -14 vs. Ole Miss
• Texas A&M -21 vs. Arkansas