Many of you who are reading this—OK, make that most of you—already expect Tennessee to get thrashed by the Georgia Bulldogs next Saturday. That outcome is likely but is not written in stone.
Tennessee needs this game for many reasons. And they can win it. Doing so will involve all the things a team must normally do to beat a superior opponent. Plus, for the Volunteers, it will require three additional steps.
How important this game is to both teams is obvious. First, it is a conference game, and the Vols are already 0-1 in the SEC. At this point, they are still in the hunt for the SEC East title, but just barely.
Also, beating Georgia would move their record to 4-1 overall, their best five-game season start since 2006. A win over Georgia almost definitely re-establishes them back in the AP Top 25.
For the Bulldogs, they have much more to lose than a football game on Saturday. They are trying to protect and advance a No. 5 national AP ranking. So, any loss here virtually eliminates their national title aspirations.
Before a serious claim on the national title can be made, the Bulldogs must win their conference championship. To do that, they must win the SEC eastern division. A loss to UT puts them a full conference game behind both South Carolina and Florida.
A loss to Tennessee also creates a tie between the Bulldogs and Vols on the loss side of the ledger. In the long run if things were to stay that way, UT would own the tie-breaker.
A loss to Tennessee on Saturday, assures the Bulldogs of no higher than a fourth-place standing in the conference. That would virtually eliminate them from the SEC title race very early on.
In addition, a Tennessee win would also make it virtually impossible for Georgia to win their first national championship in 32 years. It would also end any possibility of an undefeated season—again, the first in 32 years.
On the Tennessee side, a win over Georgia would greatly help head coach Derek Dooley validate his credentials as an SEC head football coach. It would also pull the Vols back up into the national rankings—as well as the national eye—a great coup for their recruiting.
Most importantly, it could become that signature win for the Derek Dooley era at UT. Something that most experts agree must happen sometime this year, in order for that era to continue.
This is a big early season matchup for both teams and their coaching staffs.
Tennessee will need to play their best game of the season to have a chance at Georgia.
In addition to doing all the obvious things well, the following three keys can assure a Tennessee win between the Georgia hedges.