ATHENS — From the timing is everything department, an offseason highlight video from Georgia’s win over Tennessee last season has ignited VolTwitter and some media.
It has quickly made the border state rivalry between the Bulldogs and the Vols arguably the hottest of this offseason in the SEC.
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) April 30, 2020
Tennessee is riding a wave of success with six straight on-field wins to close last season, and a recruiting class that currently ranks No. 3 in the 247Sports composite rankings.
Coach Kirby Smart’s class currently ranks No. 12 in the recruiting rankings. The Bulldogs have only seven commitments compared with the 15 that Jeremy Pruitt currently has pledged at UT.
A so-called “Twitter beef” has erupted between the fanbases, in part because of the Georgia-Tennessee 2019 game video.
The Bulldogs have been releasing highlights of the 2019 games the past two months, celebrating the fourth game of the season with Notre Dame as a “Virtual G-Day Game” on April 18.
The Tennessee game was the fifth game of the season and next in line to be featured on twitter.
It’s hard to imagine Georgia could have anticipated Tennessee’s great recruiting success this spring and timed the release of the video of the fifth game of the season to coincide.
The Big Orange following, however, does not seem to be buying into coincidence or happenstance. The Vols are charged up for the season and many are ready to tangle on Twitter.
— Wes Rucker (@wesrucker247) May 1, 2020
The Tennessee-Georgia football rivalry is set for November this season, part of an SEC league office schedule adjustment that involves Auburn.
Smart and Tigers’ coach Gus Malzahn both wanted the Georgia-Auburn rivalry game switched out of November, where the programs also have rivalry games with Georgia Tech and Alabama, respectively.
Tennessee, meanwhile, has dealt with playing Florida and Georgia in close proximity for years, so the schedule swap was appealing to the Vols, as well.
This season’s rivalry game between Tennessee and the Bulldogs takes place on Nov. 14, the same weekend The Masters has been rescheduled to.
It makes for quite a Saturday afternoon of viewing, with the Georgia-UT game likely slated to be played under the lights at Sanford Stadium.
Whenever or wherever the game is played, there’s sure to be plenty of intensity on the field and between the fanbases that leaves an impression on the most humble and easy-going of people.
Even Jake Fromm couldn’t get Rocky Top out of his head the last time the team’s met.
Tennessee Top 10 flashback
It has been nearly four years since the Vols have had this sort of football momentum.
Former coach Butch Jones opened the 2016 season with five straight wins, including victories over Florida and Georgia that led to the program’s first Top 10 regular-season ranking in nearly 10 years.
Josh Dobbs’ last-second heave to Jauan Jennings on the “Hail Mary Between the Heddges” remains the Vols’ answer to Georgia’s “Hobnail Boot” win in Neyland Stadium, where celebrated road rivalry wins are concerned.
Tennessee had the top-ranked recruiting class of commits in the SEC entering the 2017 season, too. But then a last-second loss to Florida and 41- 0 loss to Georgia triggered a collapse that got Jones fired and sparked upheaval in the administrative ranks.
Hall of Famer Phillip Fulmer emerged as the AD and program leader, hiring Pruitt and helping the first-time head coach bring back UT stars Tee Martin and Jay Graham to the coaching staff.
‘Vols are back’
Fulmer, coach the last time Tennessee played in the SEC Championship Game (2007), made a statement on signing day last February that reverberated across the nation.
“The Vols are back,” Fulmer said. “And before long we’ll be taking a bite out of everybody we play’s ass.”
— Marshall Hughes (@marshallhughes) February 6, 2020
Georgia, the defending three-time SEC East Division champions and winners of 18 of their past 19 games against East Division teams, has become accustomed to offseason challengers and chatter.
Most of the crossfire has come from Florida, where Dan Mullen appeared to be trolling Georgia during the last offseason with a spring game attendance number that called out UGA’s national championship success futility.
Coach Kirby Smart responded stated last summer, however, that Georgia prefers to “talk with our helmets” and has avoided making grandiose statements.
Smart regularly goes out of his way to humble his team and keep team praise in moderation.
After a 26-14 Sugar Bowl win over Baylor in a battle of Top 10 teams, Smart went on a postgame rant about a “disease” creeping in at Georgia of players believing they are better than they are.
While Georgia’s Twitter account shows game highlights and hype video from practices like most any other, Smart continuously reminds players of their need for improvement.
Senior safety Richard LeCounte has been projected by some as a first-round pick. But Smart went out of his way during the Virtual G-Day Game to point out how LeCounte was beat on a route by Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet, a second-round NFL pick.
Smart has not, however, conceded anything on the recruiting trail.
Georgia has finished with the top-ranked recruiting class two of the last three years and no lower than sixth since Smart was hired.
Perception, however, can quickly overtake reality, and Tennessee is fighting the fight on social media.
The Vols and the Bulldogs have two of the larger and more influential Twitter followings, so this doesn’t figure to be a war of words that will end anytime soon.
Here’s a sampling of the suddenly sizzling offseason rivalry:
— Chilly (@chilly2pointOh) May 1, 2020
“Collar around throat”
— Ramon Foster (@RamonFoster) April 30, 2020
Vols making CFB sweat
Schools starting to sweat over TN over the last week:
Florida coach subtweets UT commit.
Georgia Football feels the heat, tweets highlights of last years game in late April.
Oklahoma coach subtweets Tennessee.
The Vols are headed in the right direction.
You love to see it. https://t.co/VoeV0RWhBP
— DC (@drew3cook) May 1, 2020
A week to remember
This is a week that most Vols fans will never forget. We made a lot of fan bases angry. We even got Georgia’s twitter taking weak shots at us. They ALL know we’re coming.
— Big Orange Herd🍊 (@The_Klassens) May 1, 2020