This doesn’t seem like an ideal week for Tennessee to play Georgia.
Tennessee is coming off an uninspiring 36-7 loss at Missouri.
Georgia just beat Ole Miss 52-27, extending Georgia’s winning streak to 27 games games.
Last weekend sucked the air out of the anticipation for Tennessee’s big home game against Georgia.
So does Tennessee really not have a shot to win this week?
Don’t answer that yet.
First, let’s take a look at five reasons to believe Tennessee can beat Georgia this week.
The oddsmakers say Tennessee has a shot
Georgia is favored this week, and rightfully so.
But the Bulldogs are only favored by 10.5 points.
That’s a pretty big number for a road favorite.
It’s not an insurmountable number.
The moneyline available as of this writing gives Tennessee about a 20-percent chance of winning, according to SportsLine.
That’s not a great chance, but it’s a lot better than the odds Lloyd Christmas had to land Mary Swanson.
The Vols are underdogs and have their work cut out to pull off the upset.
But it can happen. The oddsmakers have said so.
Tennessee is at home
This is the biggest (only?) reason I’ve heard someone bring up the idea of a Tennessee upset this week.
Tennessee hasn’t lost at home since 2021.
Yes, that loss came against Georgia.
But there’s no doubt Tennessee is a tough team to beat at home.
Just ask Alabama about the environment at Neyland Stadium last year.
Returning home was a good fix for Tennessee earlier this season after a woeful performance at Florida.
In Tennessee’s next SEC game, the Vols scored 41 points against South Carolina and rolled past the Gamecocks.
Georgia is much better than South Carolina.
But a strong showing by Tennessee’s home crowd could help elevate the Vols’ level of play – and put pressure on Tennessee’s opponent.
Tennessee’s defensive line
Missouri ran all over Tennessee’s defense last week.
That doesn’t mean the Vols have lost their ability to defend the run and create pressure.
This is the same defense that was first in the SEC in rush defense before last week’s game.
If Tennessee’s defensive line can slow down Georgia’s rushing attack and pressure quarterback Carson Beck, the Vols will have a chance to make the game competitive.
The Missouri tape had to be tough to watch for Tennessee’s defense.
It shouldn’t be tough to find motivation to play better.
Players like Tyler Baron, Bryson Eason and Omari Thomas have to be fired up to play better than they did last week.
If the Vols want to win this week, their defensive line will have to play well.
Georgia’s strong offensive line will require it.
The Auburn game
Did you catch Georgia’s performance at Auburn earlier this season?
Auburn led that game in the third quarter and was tied with Georgia halfway through the fourth quarter.
Georgia needed a Brock Bowers touchdown catch late in the game to secure the win.
In that game, Auburn quarterback Payton Thorne was able to make plays with his legs (92 rushing yards) and extend drives.
When have we seen Tennessee’s Joe Milton III at his best this season?
When he’s running the ball to supplement the passing game.
Tennessee can look at Auburn’s performance against Georgia to find ways to be successful this week.
Georgia has pounded teams recently.
But blowout wins against Kentucky and Ole Miss came in Athens with Georgia’s 43-20 win over Florida on a neutral field.
Besides the Auburn game, Georgia’s only other true road game was at Vanderbilt.
In Georgia’s one true road test at Auburn, the Bulldogs struggled.
Tennessee needs to grab the Auburn tape and find what might work this week.
Where is Georgia’s focus?
Kirby Smart’s biggest challenge this week will be to keep his team focused and motivated after clinching the SEC East last weekend.
Georgia’s players know they easily beat Tennessee last year.
And they know the Vols are coming off a bad performance at Missouri.
Will Georgia’s players be totally dialed in this week?
Smart is a master motivator.
He always seems to know which buttons to push to prepare his team.
That’s probably why he criticized his team’s practice performance on Tuesday.
Perhaps the Bulldogs’ practice wasn’t what it needed to be.
But Smart also knew he needed to grab his team’s attention.
Let’s see if he has it on Saturday.
If Georgia isn’t focused, that can lead to mistakes.
Penalties, turnovers and sloppy play on the road can lead to an upset.
If Tennessee wants to pull the upset on Saturday, the Vols will need a little help from Georgia.
There’s reason to at least believe it could happen.
So… do you believe?