Tennessee and Georgia at a Crossroads Heading Into Week 2

Jeffrey McDanielCorrespondent ISeptember 11, 2009

ATHENS, GA - OCTOBER 11:  Eric Berry #14 of the Tennessee Volunteers tackles Knowshon Moreno #24 of the Georgia Bulldogs during the game at Sanford Stadium on October 11, 2008 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

What a difference a week makes.

Last week, Georgia was ranked in the top 15. Tennessee wasn't even receiving votes.

The Bulldogs were very unimpressive against Oklahoma State, with an offense that seemed to get worse down the stretch, while Tennessee was one of the top offensive teams in the country.

Now, in Week Two, Georgia faces a must-win at home against South Carolina, and Tennessee hosts UCLA in a game that has major implications for the Volunteer program.

Both teams need to win.

A Georgia loss would send them into a tailspin early in the year. Suddenly, a number of games on their schedule seem like toss-ups.

And while Tennessee isn't exactly playing USC, the Bruins are a good test. 

Tennessee can put themselves back on the map against a BCS opponent. They can all but secure a spot in the top 25 and gain a little bit more confidence and momentum heading into their Sept. 19 matchup in The Swamp against Florida.

All of those things are positive. 

But a loss isn't the end of the world. It would signal to fans what they were already thinking heading into Week One. We aren't quite there.

It seems weird to say that the season could potentially pivot on this game, but it just might. But it's not the end of the world ... for Tennessee.

But Georgia?

Losing to South Carolina would be catastrophic. One year removed from a preseason No. 1 ranking, the Bulldogs at 0-2 would immediately put coach Mark Richt on the hot seat.

What seemed last week like a slight run in Georgia's hose, would become a gaping hole at quarterback. 

Georgia would become 2009's Tennessee, an SEC East team with a struggling offense, led by a quarterback who replaced an effective leader (Stafford, UGA; Ainge, UT) and couldn't fill his shoes.

Jonathan Crompton looked like a different player against Western Kentucky, and I don't just mean he put up good numbers.

He made smart throws, with the exception of his first pick. He looked confident. He was, at least for the first game of the season, redeemed.

Tennessee has three tough road tests, Florida, Alabama, and Ole Miss. That's it.

Their schedule favors a 9-3 season. And if they can pull off an upset or two along the way, things could go very well for the Vols.

A week? What a difference a year makes in college football. Georgia has taken Tennessee's place in the SEC pecking order. The question is, can Tennessee take Georgia's?



Here are a few picks for this week.


No. 3 USC at No. 8 Ohio State.

The Trojans looked very impressive last week against sub-par competition. Ohio State did not. That said, I see USC rolling again, this time by three touchdowns, 38-17.


No. 18 Notre Dame at Michigan.

The Wolverines have only one thing going for them. Lou Holtz didn't pick them to win the National Championship. Michigan rolls 21-10.


South Carolina at No. 21 Georgia. 

In the Spurrier era, the most points scored by either team is 18. Given that both teams have terrible offenses, my pick has to go to South Carolina, whose QB should play just good enough not to get beaten. Sorry Joe Cox. Gamecocks win 9-3.


Mississippi State at Auburn.

I only mention this game because last season's score was 3-2 in favor of Auburn.  Auburn's offense looked better last week than it did in almost every game last season. So did State's. This is really a toss up, but I think Auburn gets the pick for two reasons.  One, they're at home. And two, they played an FBS school last week, which means a lot in the early part of the year. Auburn wins a squeaker, 31-27.


UCLA at Tennessee. 

The Vols lost a heartbreaker last season in overtime at UCLA on a missed field goal by Daniel Lincoln. UCLA starts a different QB this year and will be going up against a better defensive unit. Norm Chow's offense against Monte Kiffin's defense will be an interesting matchup all day. Tennessee runs away in the second half to a 38-17 win.


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