KNOXVILLE, Tenn — Tennessee will face its first challenge of this young conference-only season on Saturday with a game against No. 3 Georgia in Athens. It marks the first time since 2006 that both teams face each other while ranked inside the top 15.
With a win, Tennessee would extend its SEC-leading 8 game winning streak, while moving to 3-0 for the first time since 2016 and 3-0 in SEC play since 1998.
Of course, that's a lot easier said than done.
Georgia is undefeated on the season, picking up a road win against Arkansas and a home win against No. 13 Auburn. While the Georgia offense may have lost some of the big names from the past few seasons, former walk-on quarterback Stetson Bennett is helping the offense go. Before entering the game in the second quarter against Arkansas, Georgia's offense had managed just 83 yards and no points. With Bennett at quarterback, Georgia finished the Arkansas game with an additional 304 total yards of offense and 28 points, while putting up 442 total yards and 27 points against Auburn.
The real heartbeat of this Georgia team is its defense. The Bulldogs allow eight points per game, which ranks No. 1 in the SEC and top five in the country. Georgia's rushing defense is a big reason why - UGA gives up just 58 rushing yards per game, No. 1 in the SEC and third in the country.
Here are a few storylines to watch as Tennessee prepares for Georgia.
This is the 50th meeting between these two teams. Georgia currently leads the series with a 24-23-2 record. A win on Saturday would even the series for the Vols.
TENNESSEE'S RUNNING GAME
Tennessee is one of two schools in the SEC to feature two running backs in the top ten of rushing yards in the conference: Ty Chandler and Eric Gray. Chandler leads the SEC in rushing yards per game (88) and total rushing yards (176). Eric Gray has been on a tear over the course of the last four games. He's averaging 119.3 rushing yards per game since the regular season finale in 2019 against Vanderbilt and has picked up seven touchdowns during that stretch as well. The two will be tested against Georgia's defense.
Georgia's punter, Jake Camarda, is one of the best in the nation. He's averaging 50.22 yards per punt, which is the highest in the country. The punt return team has yet to allow a return this year as well. When facing a defense as good and as disruptive as Georgia's, the ability to flip field position can be dangerous.
CADE MAYS RETURNS TO GEORGIA
Tennessee offensive lineman Cade Mays will return to Georgia in just his second game since earning his eligibility for this season. Mays transferred to Tennessee from Georgia earlier this year. Both Mays and teammate Trey Smith are on the Outland Trophy watch list, which goes to the nation's best interior offensive lineman.
AVOIDING BIG MISTAKES ON OFFENSE
Tennessee's offense hasn't been perfect, but it's made big strides in just two games so far this season. Tennessee is averaging 33 points per game, which ranks fifth in the SEC. A big help has been the lack of turnovers. The Vols are the only SEC team to not commit a turnover so far this season. UT is +3 in turnover margin this season as well, which is tied for first in the conference.
It's not just turnovers either, Tennessee's offense is not surrendering Havoc plays. The Havoc Rate, a statistical term used in football that combines the total number of tackles for loss, passes defended and forced fumbles, is a great indicator of how disruptive a defense is. In Tennessee's case, it shows a bit of stability on the offensive side of the ball. Tennessee's offense is allowing a Havoc play on just 13.4 percent of plays, which is the best rate for an SEC offense through two weeks. Georgia's defense is the best Tennessee has faced so far. The Bulldogs cause a Havoc play on 19.39 percent of plays, which ranks fourth in the SEC.
The game will kickoff at 3:30 p.m. in Athens, Georgia. You can watch these two teams play on CBS. Follow along with WBIR on Twitter and Facebook for the most recent information as the game unfolds.