ATHENS — Georgia football opened as a 22-point favorite over Tennessee in next Saturday’s game in Knoxville, according to VegasInsider.com.
The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs (4-0) and the Vols (1-3) are both coming off bye weeks entering into the 7 p.m. clash at Neyland Stadium (TV: ESPN).
Georgia coach Kirby Smart used the bye week to analyze his team and push for changes on offense. UGA is looking for ways to combat defenses that are stacking the line of scrimmage against the run.
The Bulldogs had key players miss practice time last week, including starting cornerbacks Tyson Campbell (foot) and Eric Stokes (knee), along with offensive guard Solomon Kindley (ankle).
UGA has also been without slot receiver Kearis Jackson (hand) and defensive tackle Julian Rochester (knee).
“Right now we’re a beat-up football team,” Smart said on his radio show last Thursday.
Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt has his own challenges coming off a 34-3 loss at Florida on Sept. 21.
Pruitt, however, said last week the Vols are “100 times better” than they were last season when the Bulldogs scored a 38-12 win over Tennessee in Athens.
It remains Jake Fromm’s only collegiate game without a touchdown pass.
Pruitt had some familiarity with the Georgia defensive personnel. Pruitt served as UGA’s defensive coordinator in 2014 and 2015, recruiting some of the players he faced last season.
This season, former Bulldogs offensive coordinator Jim Chaney brings inside knowledge to the Vols’ huddle. Chaney left the Georgia program in January for Tennessee, nearly doubling his salary with a three-year deal worth $1.6 million annually.
Chaney said “it was an easy decision” to return to Knoxville where he’d coached under Derek Dooley from 2009-12.
Chaney did not downplay the significance of his familiarity with the programs in the January interview.
“I think it helps you a lot when you know people and people know me,” Chaney said. “I have folders on certain coordinators and coach Pruitt and Kirby. We all know one another and we know what each other is going to do.”
Georgia, meanwhile, has former Tennessee team captain and tight end Eli Wolf playing a key role.
Wolf, a graduate transfer, has found success in the Georgia offense with seven catches for 98 yards through the first four games.
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