ATHENS — Greetings from Sanford Stadium and Seat 100 in the Dan Magill Press Box. I’ve often said “it’s a beautiful day for football” but, man, I’m not sure I’ve ever meant it more than I do today. There is not a cloud in the sky, temperature is in the 70s now, not supposed to get much more than 80, and Old Glory in the northwest corner of the stadium is barely flapping to a gentle breeze.
So the conditions are good. Whether they’re ripe for Georgia to pull off an upset today we’ll find out here in a couple of hours.
It’s going to be a tall, tall task in this correspondent’s humble opinion. Tennessee, today’s guest, is rolling at the moment. The 11th-ranked Vols (4-0, 1-0 SEC) are coming off a second half for the ages against Florida, scoring 38 consecutive points for a 38-28 victory. And they bring between the hedges some matchups that, frankly, weigh decidedly in their favor.
In the meantime, it looks like the Bulldogs (3-1, 1-1) are coming off a 45-14 humiliation at Ole Miss, and they aren’t going to be full speed. For the second time in as many years, they’ll have to face Tennessee without Nick Chubb. Chubb’s father says the plan is for Georgia’s star tailback to sit out this game after suffering a high-ankle sprain in the second quarter against Ole Miss last Saturday.
But take heart, Georgia fans, there is always hope. Here are a few reasons to have it:
- Tennessee hasn’t won at Sanford Stadium since 2006. That was also the last time UT brought a ranked team here.
- The Vols have their own injury issues. According to UT beat writers, they’ll be without three of their top four defensive players in cornerback/kick returner Cam Sutton (ankle) and inside linebackers Darrin Kirkland (ankle) and Jalen Reeves-Maybin (shoulder). Unfortunately for Georgia, Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett is present and accounted for.
- With some of the Vols’ best playmakers missing in the back half of the defense, Georgia may be able to exploit them with an aerial assault. The Bulldogs have spent a lot of time tweaking their offensive operation with freshman quarterback Jacob Eason this week. If Georgia can throw and catch better than it did last weekend, when it had a half-dozen drops against Ole Miss, it might be able to score some points.
- And, finally, the Vols aren’t world-beaters on the offensive line. Georgia can win some of those matchups and desperately need to. Pressuring and at least containing quarterback Josh Dobbs with outside linebackers Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter, is going to be paramount. So will be keeping a handle on tailbacks Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara.
And then there’s always this: The best team doesn’t always win. Crazy things happen in football. The pigskin is oblong and takes funny bounces sometimes. Georgia can certainly pull this off.
For the Bulldogs, this is kind of a one-game Super Bowl. Dragging a conference loss into this contest — albeit to a West team — makes this effectively an elimination game for the Eastern Division. So expect Georgia to pull out all the stops and play with reckless abandoned.
We have a full crew here all day to give you a blow-by-blow of everything that’s happening in and around the game.
Let’s have some fun, y’all!