Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel, and Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde and Ross Dellenger discuss this weekend’s heavyweight clash between No. 1 Tennessee and No. 3 Georgia, and break down which team might have the edge in this strength-on-strength matchup.
DAN WETZEL: Let's talk about this matchup, Tennessee-Georgia, the mega showdown no one saw coming, which is fun. I don't think anyone had this circled in those summer top-10 games of the year, must-be-at games. But here we are. Josh Heupel, Hendon Hooker, the Tennessee Volunteers have risen up.
And now this game against Georgia is an absolute monster, as we just mentioned, for playoff purposes, for SEC title purposes, just for-- is going to be great. Biggest game on the Georgia campus. And you guys can tell me. Been a while where you get this level of a game, huge stakes and what should be just a really exciting game.
So let's talk about this. Pat, what do you see as the key-- we'll make these picks on Race for the Case. But going into this, what do you want to see from Tennessee, what do you want to see from Georgia that would make either of them successful?
PAT FORDE: Well, whose strength is better? Because it's a strength on strength matchup. Tennessee's offense, especially its big-play passing game, against Georgia's defense. You've got the best offense in the SEC and the best defense. Georgia, year over year, has just been incredible defensively. Last year, they had the best defense in the country by a wide margin. This year, right now, they're second behind Illinois.
And they just don't give up a lot of easy stuff. And Tennessee just feasts on big plays. I mean, they are just an absolute big-play volcano. They're by far first in the nation in passing plays of 30 yards or longer and 40 yards or longer. Hendon Hooker's been great, Jalin Hyatt, Bru McCoy, and now Cedric Tillman's back. They've got a receiving corps that's very explosive. So who wins that battle?
And Tennessee is just going to throw that crazy tempo at them. And it bothered Georgia last year at the beginning of the game, took Georgia a quarter to kind of get their feet under them. So can their tempo bother Georgia? Or can Georgia frustrate Tennessee, a Tennessee offense that's been used to just going bing, bang, boom down the field?
I think Georgia, obviously, has a little more experience in huge games, but Tennessee has not shown any problem with that. I mean, the way they played against Alabama, and they've played well on the road at LSU. Now that was LSU at 11:00 AM before the drinking had taken full effect, to Dan's dismay, and LSU isn't as good. But still, I don't think Tennessee is going to walk into this and say, oh my God, we're in too big a setting. So can't wait to see it. Going to be a great matchup.
ROSS DELLENGER: Dan, you mentioned how unexpected this is, and it's a good indication-- this week, we've got the SEC West on the line, obviously, and the SEC East on the line. And part of CBC's deal with the SEC is that twice a year, they get a double header. They get a daytime double header at noon and 3:30. Then they get a nighttime double header at 3:30 and 7:00. And they have to pick those before the season begins, and they did not pick this weekend as one of their day or nighttime double headers.
And this game, obviously-- and I think Pat said it. It is strength on strength, right? It's Georgia's-- and specifically Georgia's pass defense is like, I think, 12th in the nation or something. And Tennessee's passing offense is, I think, second in the country. So it'll be interesting to see the strength on strength and what happens there. I feel like this will be a game where the Georgia fans will have a real impact.
I mean, it's going to be packed, you would think, and it'll be curious of how Tennessee handles kind of an electric road environment and Hendon Hooker and the calls they make and all that stuff. They've just so good in the passing game. And it seems like in a split second, they can score so quickly. But against Georgia, right, they're notorious the last few years with Kirby as being a team that is very difficult to score on, especially very difficult to score big plays on.
DAN WETZEL: Tennessee's got this feel like we're just going to put numbers up on anybody. And anybody is here now, so we're going to find out whether that's true.