FB PREVIEW: Vols and Dawgs Set for Top 15 Showdown in Athens

Vols RB Eric Gray / Credit: UT Athletics

After a 2-0 start to the season, No. 14/12 Tennessee will face its toughest challenge yet as the Vols travel to Athens to take on No. 3/3 Georgia on Saturday afternoon.

UT will be looking to upset the Bulldogs and extend their SEC-leading win streak to nine games. The only FBS program with a longer current win streak than Tennessee is Air Force (9).

Broadcast Info

Saturday’s game has been tabbed as the SEC Game of the Week and will be televised on CBS with Brad Nessler (PxP), Gary Danielson (analyst) and Jamie Erdahl (sideline) on the call. Kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m. ET. The Vols are making their first appearance on CBS since Nov. 17, 2018.

Fans can also listen to Tennessee’s official radio broadcast on the Vol Network (WIVK-FM 107.7/WNML-FM 99.1) and satellite radio (Sirius Ch. 105, XM Ch. 191, Internet Ch. 962).

Bob Kesling (PxP), Tim Priest (analyst) and Brent Hubbs (analyst) will call the action, with Kasey Funderburg handling sideline duties. The “Kickoff Call-In Show” begins at 2 p.m. ET.

Need to Know

Top 15 Showdown
For the first time since their meeting on Oct. 7, 2006, No. 14/12 Tennessee and No. 3/3 Georgia square off both as top 15 teams. The then-No. 13 Vols bested the then-No. 10 Bulldogs, 51-33, in Sanford Stadium that day. UT is seeking its first 3-0 overall start since 2016 and its first 3-0 start in SEC play since 1998.

The Streak
The Vols carry an eight-game overall winning streak and a six-game SEC win streak into Week 3. That mark is currently the second-longest in the FBS, the longest in the SEC and tied for the longest in the Power 5. It’s UT’s second-longest win streak since the 1998 national championship season (won 11 in a row 2015-16).

The longest current win streaks in the nation belong to Air Force (9), Tennessee (8) and Notre Dame (8). The Vols’ streak began last season on Oct. 26 with a 41-21 win over South Carolina. The six-game SEC win streak is UT’s longest since winning six in a row from Oct. 31, 2015 to Oct. 1, 2016. The Vols have won nine out of their last 10 games. As part of the streak, UT has won its last three SEC road games.

UT’s Impressive 1-2 Punch
Through two weeks of the season, senior Ty Chandler and sophomore Eric Gray have made a case as the best 1-2 running back tandem in the SEC. UT is the one of two schools with two running backs in the SEC’s top 10 of rushing yards per game. Chandler leads the SEC in rushing yards per game (88.0) and total rush yards (176). With his 103 all-purpose yards against Missouri, Chandler moved into 10th place on UT’s career all-purpose yards list, surpassing Peerless Price (1995-98). Chandler enters the Georgia game with 2,923 all-purpose yards, 77 yards shy of becoming the 10th Vol to reach 3,000 in a career. He is 80 yards shy of tying Cedric Houston (2001-04) for ninth place.

Gray has been spectacular in his last four games dating back to 2019. During that span he has combined for seven total touchdowns – six rushing and one receiving – and 477 total rush yards. He is averaging 119.3 yards per game on the ground in the last four games. Gray went over the 100-yard rushing mark for the second time in his career with 105 yards in the win against Missouri last Saturday. He rushed for a touchdown and caught a touchdown versus the Tigers, becoming the first Vol to achieve that feat in a game since Alvin Kamara did so on Nov. 26, 2016 against Vanderbilt. Gray heads into the Georgia game carrying a streak of four straight contests with a rushing touchdown. He is the first UT player to achieve that feat since QB Josh Dobbs in 2016 (Sept. 10 – Oct. 1).

Vols Tame Tigers to Improve to 2-0
Tennessee racked up 232 rushing yards, including a game-high 105 yards from Gray, as the Vols dominated Missouri, 35-12, in their home opener last Saturday. Senior QB Jarrett Guarantano accounted for three touchdowns, including two on the ground to lead the offense. Junior DB Trevon Flowers delivered a career-high 10 tackles, while senior DB Theo Jackson provided a key interception early in the fourth quarter to lead the defensive effort.

The 23-point margin of victory was UT’s largest over an SEC opponent since Nov. 19, 2016 – a 63-37 win over Missouri. The Vols were a perfect 4-of-4 on fourth down, representing the first time since Sept. 21, 2002 (vs. Florida, 4-of-6), that UT converted four or more fourth downs in a game.

Mays’ Debut
On the evening of Sept. 30, junior OL transfer Cade Mays was granted eligibility to play this season. Mays, who joins teammate Trey Smith on the Outland Trophy watch list, enrolled at UT in the spring of 2020. The Knoxville native started 18 of the 25 games he played in at Georgia from 2018-19. Mays’ UT debut came with a start at right tackle against Missouri last week. He helped the Vols rush for 232 yards in an impressive 35-12 victory over the Tigers. On Saturday, Mays will return to Athens to take on his former school for the first time.

Series History

Bulldogs lead series, 24-23-2­
Georgia leads the all-time series with Tennessee by the slimmest of margins. The Vols will look to even the series with a win on Saturday, which would also be UT’s third straight victory over UGA when both teams are ranked (2006 & 2016). The Bulldogs have won the last three meetings between the two teams, including a 43-14 victory in Knoxville last season.

About Georgia

The Bulldogs enter Saturday’s showdown as one of the top teams in the country and the team to beat in the SEC East, claiming the last three division titles. Georgia is led by head coach Kirby Smart, who has compiled a 46-12 record in his four-plus seasons leading the program and led the Dawgs to the College Football Playoff National Championship game in 2018.

Georgia boasts one of the top defenses in all of college football. The Bulldogs lead the SEC in scoring defense (8.0 ppg), total defense (248.0 ypg), rushing defense (58.0 ypg) and passing yards allowed (190.0 ypg). Redshirt sophomore OLB Azeez Ojulari leads the team with three tackles for loss and nine quarterback hurries while senior DB Richard LeCounte has intercepted two passes and leads the secondary.

Offensively, UGA features a powerful rushing attack that is led by redshirt sophomore RB Zamir White, who leads the team with 159 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Walk-on QB Stetson Bennett has taken over as the starter behind center and has performed well, completing 37 of 57 pass attempts for 451 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. His top targets have been wide receivers Kearis Jackson (15 rec., 209 yds) and George Pickens (6 rec., 73 yds, 2 TDs).

-UT Athletics

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