The Georgia-Tennessee division rivalry has been just a bit one-sided in the last half-decade. The Bulldogs have won five straight against the Volunteers and will look to extend that streak this weekend in Knoxville.
Both teams started the season with sky-high expectations, but both also come limping into Saturday’s matchup. The Vols are sitting 2-3 on the season and have blown double-digit leads in each of their three losses. Georgia is in much better territory at 4-1, but that one loss was an absolute beatdown at home at the hands of the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The bottom line: Georgia and Tennessee both need a win on Saturday to keep the 2015 season from taking an ugly downhill turn.
Despite the poor performance against Alabama, Georgia can still hang its hat on the fact that the Bulldogs still control their own destiny in the SEC East. But games this one against Tennessee are the exact type of contests that have tripped Georgia up in the past few seasons. Last season, Mark Richt’s squad suffered their only two conference losses to mediocre teams in South Carolina and Florida, allowing Missouri to sneak past them for a trip to Atlanta.
Another one of these losses could have the Bulldogs potentially sitting two games behind the SEC East-leading Gators. As much as Georgia gets ridiculed for not being able to win “the big one,” An equally valid criticism would be that the Bulldogs constantly struggle to win the games that should propel to “the big one.”
If Georgia were to fall two games behind the Gators, even with win over Florida in Jacksonville, the Gators would need to lose two out of three against LSU, South Carolina and Vanderbilt to give the Bulldogs a chance to win the East.
For Tennessee, this game is simply about keeping the wheels on. Few teams have had a more disappointing start to the 2015 season than the Vols. Tennessee came into the season expecting to be a contender in the SEC and possibly even a dark horse for a spot in the College Football Playoff, but the expectations haven’t materialized.
Tennessee has lost each of its three games against Power 5 opponents against Oklahoma, Florida and Arkansas. What makes the losses even more frustrating is Tennessee’s inability to finish. The Vols have led in every game this season entering the fourth quarter, but even though the talent in Knoxville has improved under Butch Jones it appears the mindset has not.
The Vols need a victory over Georgia to have any chance of turning around 2015 and managing to salvage a decent season.
Speaking of Jones, his seat is considerably warmer than anyone expected it to be nearing the midway point of the season. Jones could probably use a victory on Saturday more than anybody else involved to quiet the concerns of his job security for at least a week. If Tennessee falls to 2-4 on the year and 0-3 in the SEC, the whispers that Jones might not be in Knoxville much longer will get a little louder.
The opportunity is there on Saturday for both teams to get the 2015 season back on track. While one team will take advantage of that opportunity, the team that doesn’t will have even more questions to answer at this time next week.