Tennessee at Georgia (-31.5)
Sat. 9/30, 3:30 p.m. ET
Three things you need to know before betting on Tennessee-Georgia:
1. Tennessee is coming off an embarrassing 26-point loss to Florida at Neyland Stadium, but a huge factor in that defeat was the Vols turning the ball over six times. Sure, that’s an indictment of Tennessee’s ball security—two of those turnovers were Jarrett Guarantano interceptions—but the abundance of opponent fumble recoveries is something even a program as talented as Georgia can’t expect to replicate. One of those turnovers was a fumble through the end zone, on the heels of a 54-yard completion to Austin Pope, which gave the Gators the ball after what looked like six sure points for Tennessee. As dominant as Georgia has looked this season, this giant spread can also be seen as a reaction to the Volunteers’ lopsided loss, which is not a fully accurate representation of the team.
2. The talent gap between Georgia and Tennessee is vast, and it had the potential to be greater when Guarantano left the game against Florida after taking a low hit. But he’ll play on Saturday, with Stanford transfer Keller Chryst providing adequate insurance just in case. Both offensive lines have concerns. Tennessee’s pass protection, in general, needs help. Georgia’s has been hampered by injuries. Ben Cleveland, the starting right guard for the Bulldogs, fractured his left fibula last week and will miss at least four weeks. Justin Shaffer will likely make his first career start in place of Cleveland against Tennessee. In addition, left tackle Andrew Thomas re-injured his knee in Georgia’s win at Missouri and was replaced by freshman Cade Mays. While the result of this week’s game may be a fait accompli, one thing Georgia will want to accomplish is getting out of Sanford Stadium as healthy as possible. Its schedule toughens significantly in October, starting with a trip to LSU, and Georgia’s eyes are on the big picture.
3. A 3:30 p.m. CBS game with a 31.5-point spread? Two betting trends would suggest taking Tennessee here. First, Georgia is 4-11 in its last 15 games as a home favorite of 30 points or more (0-2 against SEC teams). Second, the Vols have covered four of their last five games against a favored Georgia. And in its last eight games at Sanford Stadium as an underdog, Tennessee is 5-1-2 against the spread. Georgia’s 41-0 win over Tennessee in Knoxville—exactly one year ago on Saturday—will be hard to forget when placing this bet. But that result is the exception to a traditionally close SEC East rivalry, even if Georgia is lapping Tennessee in prestige. Kirby Smart will win this game, but the smart play is on Jeremy Pruitt’s team and a spread practically unheard of in this series’ history.
Pick: Tennessee +31.5
Confidence Level: High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)