No. 1 Georgia aims to cap SEC sweep at Tennessee

NCAA Football

Top-ranked Georgia looks to go undefeated in Southeastern Conference play for the first time since 1982 when the Bulldogs face Tennessee on Saturday in Knoxville, Tenn.

The Bulldogs (9-0, 7-0 SEC) have already secured their fourth SEC East title in the past five seasons and will play the yet-to-be decided West Division champion in the conference title game on Dec. 4 in Charlotte.

Georgia also controls its destiny to reach the College Football Playoff for the first time since 2017-18, when the Bulldogs finished the season losing to Alabama in overtime in the championship game.

Tennessee (5-4, 3-3) is coming off a 45-42 win at then-No. 18 Kentucky that ended the Volunteers’ 31-game road losing streak against ranked teams. However, the Vols have dropped their past four meetings with the Bulldogs, who have outscored Tennessee 84-14 over the past two matchups in Knoxville.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart followed the same script he has used for most of the season on Monday, refusing to name a starting quarterback.

Stetson Bennett has started the past five games in place of JT Daniels, who played most of the second half against Missouri after having been sidelined with a strained oblique.

Bennett completed 13 of 19 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns against the Tigers last week, then gave way to Daniels after the Bulldogs had built their lead to 33-3 early in the third quarter. Daniels completed 7 of 11 passes for 82 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

For the season, Bennett has gone 80 of 120 (66.7 percent) for 1,412 yards with 14 touchdown passes and four interceptions. Daniels is a more efficient passer, completing 74.4 percent of his throws (61 of 82) for 649 yards and six touchdowns with three interceptions.

“I think having both just makes the offense more explosive,” Georgia running back Kenny McIntosh said. “Both quarterbacks are great leaders. Stetson has done a great job of carrying this team so far. JT is a great leader as well. He did what he had to do to get healthy, so having him come back from his injury is huge.”

Zamir White (106 carries, 519 yards, nine TDs) and James Cook (66 carries, 383 yards, four TDs) will power the ground game. True freshman tight end Brock Bowers leads the team in receptions (28), yards (493) and receiving touchdowns (six), and redshirt freshman receiver Ladd McConkey, who has 21 catches for 338 yards and three scores, have emerged as the team’s top receivers.

“You have to defend it all because it’s not just one thing they do well,” Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said. “You have to handle the run game and get them off-schedule and get off the field on third down.”

Heupel knows exactly who he will start under center. Hendon Hooker was terrific against Kentucky, going 15 of 20 for a career-high 316 yards and four touchdowns. He has thrown for 1,894 yards with 21 touchdowns against just two interceptions this season.

The Vols will look to receivers Velus Jones Jr. (36 catches, 553 yards, five TDs), Cedric Tillman (36 catches, 525 yards, five TDs) and JaVonta Payton (14 catches, 365 yards, six TDS) to find success against Georgia.

It won’t be easy, though, as the Bulldogs are ranked second nationally in passing defense, allowing just 151.1 yards per game. Georgia’s defense has yielded just five touchdowns this season, and opponents are averaging 6.6 points.

Tennessee running back Tiyon Evans has rushed for 525 yards and six touchdowns on 81 carries — an average of 6.5 yards per attempts. He will look to find holes in a Georgia defense that is ranked second nationally against the run (80.7 yards per game).

–Field Level Media

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