Georgia Football Three Keys: Tennessee

Three keys Georgia

The Georgia Bulldogs are the defending national champions of college football, but they’re ranked No. 3 heading into Saturday’s huge SEC East game Between the Hedges in Athens.

By Matt Zemek

The team they are facing is No. 1

Who would have thought? The Tennessee Volunteers, who have not won the SEC championship since 1998, are No. 1 in the nation for the first time since that magical joyride to the top of the college football mountain. They found a way past Alabama in the kind of game they had consistently been unable to win for two decades. Now Tennessee is a competitor for Georgia – not just in the SEC East, but for a College Football Playoff berth. Georgia is unbeaten, and yet if the Dawgs lose this game, they will be in a precarious spot for playoff positioning. Tennessee could face Alabama in an SEC Championship Game rematch, and if Bama wins that rematch (working with this hypothetical scenario), Georgia would be third in the SEC pecking order. The Dawgs would need Clemson to lose in order to make the playoff. They would need help.

That’s not where Georgia wants to be.

The Dawgs need to take care of Tennessee and make sure they control their own fate heading into the rest of November. Here are the three most essential tasks they need to take care of:

1 – The secondary

Tennessee-Georgia will fundamentally come down to a battle of big plays versus red zone defense. Georgia’s offense struggled in the red zone against Missouri and has not fired on all cylinders throughout the season. It has thrived at times, but it has been inconsistent. Both teams would love to see their opponents patiently work the ball down the field and then bog down in the red zone. The Dawgs and Vols want to be the team which hits the home-run ball and watches the other team struggle to finish drives.

Georgia has the front seven needed to win this game. The real key for UGA is for its secondary to hold up in coverage against Jalin Hyatt and Bru McCoy, and the rest of the UT receivers. Hyatt is the star, but Tennessee will certainly try to create openings for McCoy and other supporting-cast receivers. Georgia has to be ready for various lines of attack from Josh Heupel. The back line of defense has to be airtight on long passes.

2 – Bennett’s best

Remember last year, when everyone doubted if Stetson Bennett could lead UGA to the national championship? Bennett rose up in the biggest moments and proved worthy of the challenge. This is where we need to see his best football. He wasn’t special against Missouri or Kent State, but that doesn’t matter. If he shows up when the lights are bright, UGA can get back to the national championship game. “Big Game Bennett” is a necessity for Georgia against the Vols.

3 – Short yardage

Georgia prides itself under Kirby Smart on being the toughest, most physical team on the field. Georgia should relish third-and-short and fourth-and-short situations where it can lean on Tennessee’s defensive line, establish territorial dominance, control the ball, and finish drives against a weak Volunteer defense.

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