SEC Football: Takeaways from Georgia’s 27-13 win over Tennessee

After Georgia’s impressive 27-13 win over Tennessee in one of the top SEC Football games of the year, what are some of the biggest takeaways for both the Bulldogs and Volunteers?

Georgia Bulldogs (9-0, 6-0)

Saturday’s Performance: 10/10

It was an impressive performance from what will be the #1 team in the country in not just the AP and Coaches Poll, but the all-important College Football Playoff Rankings on Tuesday night. A 27–13 home victory over SEC Football and the nation’s former #1, Tennessee, and the game was not nearly as close as the scoreline might suggest. There are almost nothing but positive takeaways from this season’s Game of the Century for Georgia fans.

We previously said that Tennessee’s run game was critical to the outcome of last weekend’s marquee matchup — if the Dawgs could slow down the Volunteers’ running attack, Tennessee would be far more limited in their play selection: the play action would become less effective, and Tennessee wouldn’t be able to stretch apart the Georgia secondary with their truly WIDE wide receivers like they have to eight other secondaries this season. Well, Georgia didn’t just slow the Tennessee rushing game, they flat-out stopped it — and Tennessee’s whole offense with it. The country’s top-scoring offense which scored on every other possession entering the game was able to string together just two field goals before a late garbage-time touchdown made the scoreline a little more respectable.

It was utter domination from the Bulldogs who look set to defend their title. Every week, Georgia looks more and more like the country’s premier program — the standard bearer for the rest of the sport, a transition that looked even more obvious Saturday night after Alabama suffered their second loss of the season and was effectively eliminated from playoff contention. And given the fact that Georgia’s two tests against potentially elite competition this season resulted in two blowout wins, it seems that, like the Alabama teams of the past, their struggle wins against Missouri, Kent State, and, to a lesser extent, Auburn, were the product of a giant sleepwalking through a schedule too easy for them to worry about, and not a seriously flawed team waiting to be exposed.

Now Georgia will finish off the season with potentially tricky road trips at Mississippi State and Kentucky before they get their annual shellacking of “rivals” Georgia Tech. If they take care of business, which they almost certainly will, they’ll head to Atlanta to (probably) take on LSU before heading to the playoffs for the third time in six seasons.

Tennessee Volunteers (8–1, 4–1)

Saturday’s Performance: 4/10

Well, Sanford Stadium has never been an easy place to play, and Saturday was no different. In fact, Sanford was harder to play at than ever before last weekend as they set a stadium record for noise, with a decibel reading of 132.6 at one point in the game, just one decibel shy of the all-time college football record. So, in many ways, it was an understandable performance from a Tennessee team that has not played in high-stakes games away from home in a very long time, especially high-stakes games where they were a team facing pressure and expectations.

But then again, there weren’t many positives for Tennessee. Their dominant rushing attack was stifled. Their prolific passing game led by former Heisman favorite Hendon Hooker was shut down. They were dominated at the line of scrimmage, allowing six sacks to a Georgia team that struggled to get any all season and just lost Nolan Smith, their team leader in the statistic. And it would have been seven if it weren’t for a face mask penalty by Georgia defensive lineman Mykel Williams. In fact, on that set of downs in the fourth quarter in the Georgia redzone, Hendon Hooker was sacked three times for a loss of 14 yards (one being negated by the face mask), and the Tennessee offense false-started twice, just two of seven false starts on the day. It was too many mistakes for a usually well-disciplined and physically dominant Tennessee team to overcome.

Defensively, they had no answer for Georgia’s deep threat, and Stetson Bennett, a QB that has faced criticism all year, despite winning a national championship less than 12 months ago, was able to pick apart a weak Tennessee secondary.

So what is still in the picture for this squad? Well, unless Georgia continues to defy all odds and drops their final two SEC games against Kentucky and Mississippi State, the SEC Football championship is out of the question. But, thanks to the strength of the conference, the playoff isn’t. The SEC has a good shot to send multiple teams to the playoffs for the third time ever this year. If Tennessee is to pull off the feat, however, they’ll want a little bit of chaos with the teams around them. Luckily, they got some Saturday night with then #4 Clemson getting blown out at then unranked Notre Dame, a team that lost to both Marshall (2-3 Sun Belt) and Stanford (1-6 PAC-12) at home this season. And of course, Alabama’s loss to LSU effectively eliminated the Crimson Tide from the playoff conversation and clears a relatively easy path for Georgia to enter the playoffs as a 13-0 SEC Football Champion, and thus for Tennessee to end up as SEC Football’s #2 team. From there, it’s up to the committee, but a TCU loss in the coming weeks (they are notably 7-point underdogs at Texas this weekend) and a 2-loss PAC-12 champ would all but secure the Volunteers’ first appearance in the College Football Playoff.