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Azeez Ojulari is a key piece of the Georgia defense

National media takes notice of Georgia defense as big Tennessee contest looms

After shutting down Auburn to the tune of 6 points and 216 total yards, just about everybody has taken of Georgia’s dominant defense.

The group was universally praised by the national media after making life miserable for Bo Nix and the Tigers. The performance has drastically changed how the Bulldogs are viewed as a team with regards to their playoff prospects.

According to ESPN’s FPI, the Bulldogs’ chances of making the College Football Playoff from 25 percent to 45 percent. Part of that can also be attributed to the Big 12 cannibalizing itself, but the Bulldogs have also validated the lofty rankings with their dominant performance.

“We’ve talked a lot about Georgia’s early-season QB issues — but with this defense, the Dawgs’ offense has to be just merely good for the team to contend,” ESPN’s Bill Connelly wrote. “Having said that, Georgia’s offense looked pretty fantastic on a few drives against what was, heading into the game, the No. 2 defense, per defensive SP+.”

Connelly wasn’t the only national analyst to bump up Georgia’s playoff chances following the dominant win, as Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde went ahead and placed the Bulldogs in his projected College Football Playoff. He has the Bulldogs as the No. 3 team in his rankings, taking on No. 2 Clemson.

“That 27-6 whipping showed where this team will be toughest—in the trenches,” Forde wrote. “Georgia ran for 202 yards against the traditionally stout Tigers, and its defense dominated the night. When all is said and done, this might be the best defensive unit in the country.”

But Georgia can’t really sit back and enjoy its victory against Auburn as it has another tough and physical matchup looming this weekend against No. 14 Tennessee. The Volunteers come in having won their first two games this season and have done so largely through an impressive ground game.

Tennessee ranks second in the conference in rushing yards per game, relying on their strong offensive line and running back duo Eric Gray and Ty Chandler. And former Georgia Bulldog Brandon Boykin, now an analyst for the SEC Network, thinks that Tennessee’s best chance to win comes with relying heavily on the running game.

The only way they’re going to be effective in this game is they establish a run presence early on. No different than they did against Mizzou,” Boykin said. “You know that (Jarrett) Guarantano, you know that he’s best when he’s a game manager so for him to not have to be the star of the game, they’re going to have to manage time of possession and run the ball effectively.”

That could be a problem against the Georgia front, as the Bulldogs have given up just 116 total rushing yards in their first two games of the season. The weather is also expected to be a factor on Saturday, as showers are in the expected forecast.

Related: Georgia football defensive line gets its ‘biggest test’ against talented Tennessee offensive line

The Bulldogs and Volunteers kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS. Georgia is a 12.5 point favorite over the Volunteers. The Athletic’s Stewart Mandel and Bruce Feldman both picked Georgia to win the game, but neither has the Bulldogs covering.

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