Redemption comes in many ways. In sports, it often comes from avenging a previous loss (or losses) to a team, particularly a rival. In some sports, like baseball or basketball, it’s easier because you play teams more frequently. In college football, it’s different because you (normally) only play a team once in a season. Fans have to wait around all year for a chance to get those bragging rights back. Well, for Georgia fans, the wait was well worth it as the Dawgs went into Neyland and put a historic beat down on Tennessee. Here’s what I saw from the game:
1. Hail Kirby: Any thoughts of the Tennessee Hail Mary from last season were quickly put to bed on Saturday afternoon in Knoxville. Over the years, this game has been a bizarre one with a lot of twists and turns, but that was not the case this time. It was a thorough, government mule beating. Coach Smart is still very early in his tenure, but 2017 so far has gone a long way in endearing him to a fan base that was split after Georgia parted ways with Coach Richt. The best way to move on and get a united fan base is to win, and that’s what Kirby is doing right now. I still remember that feeling leaving Sanford Stadium last year with my stomach in my throat, unwilling to believe what I had just seen. Well, I’m sure Tennessee fans had a similar feeling, albeit while leaving much earlier in the game. Tennessee likes to use that trashcan when they force turnovers. Well, it feels like a fitting representation of that program right now, but more on that later.
2. A sequel better than the original: Nick Chubb’s 2nd career game at Neyland Stadium went much, much better than his first. A lot of the buzz going into this game was about Chubb returning after the brutal knee injury he suffered in Knoxville two years ago. If you know anything about Nick Chubb, he’s all business when it comes to the football field, and he took care of said business Saturday. He ran for 109 yards on 16 carries and ended up getting SEC Co-Offensive Player of the Week for his performance. The entire UGA running game was dominant, going for 294 yards in the game, but Chubb was the biggest difference maker. He’s such a hard worker and has battled adversity throughout his UGA career, so it’s just awesome to see it pay off for him in a big way against the Vols.
3. Aerial & Ground Coverage by Jake from State Fromm: Who says Jake Fromm isn’t a dual-threat quarterback? While his numbers passing weren’t anything to write home about (7 of 15 for 84 yards with a really nice touchdown throw to Javon Wims & an interception), he made two great plays with his feet for touchdowns. He’s finding ways to get the job done. Look, he’s not Deshaun Watson with his legs, but he’s much more mobile than Jacob Eason. Those rushing touchdowns probably don’t happen with Eason in the game. The QB controversy will continue now that Eason is close to being 100%, but I don’t think Fromm did anything in this game to lose the job. Coach Smart says it will be a week-to-week competition based on what they see in practice (and obviously in the games), but I just have a feeling that it’s Fromm’s job to lose. The next two games are against Vanderbilt and Missouri, so barring something really bad happening, I see Fromm as UGA’s starter at the Cocktail Party.
4. #Savages: What can be said about this defense that hasn’t already been said? Georgia’s defense has been suffocating all season long, and that didn’t change at Neyland. Roquan Smith continues to be one of the best (if not the best) linebackers in the country. He had 11 total tackles in this game to lead the Dawgs. Georgia also had three sacks, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions (including Tennessee’s first offensive play). The Vols only had 142 total yards of offense in the entire game. This game was also the perfect example of the offense complimenting the defense. Georgia played ball control and held the ball for 10 more minutes than Tennessee. That’s extra time for the defense to rest, and a well-rested Georgia defense is a scary proposition for any team in the country.
5. Kirby’s Culture Club: One thing you constantly hear when listening to Kirby Smart is him talking about changing the culture at Georgia. Towards the end of Coach Richt’s time in Athens, the team seemed to be lacking discipline and attention wasn’t being paid to fundamentals. Those things seem to have been fixed pretty quickly under Smart. A big part of that culture change is confidence or swagger. I think this Georgia team (particularly on defense) is playing with that swagger right now. They knew they were better than Mississippi State and Tennessee, and they went out and played like it. Coach Smart was at Alabama for a long time, and he seems to be bringing that feel to Athens. Georgia is playing like they know they’re going to win. This team doesn’t doubt itself. I know Tennessee isn’t a great team, but in the past, Georgia has lost these types of games. This team plays first quarter to fourth quarter with the same intensity. There’s just a better feel around this team than in the past, and we can thank Kirby Smart for that.
6. Champion of the Hot Seat Life: The seat Butch Jones sits on in Knoxville is approaching surface of the sun level hot. Leading up to this game, Jones went on a rant about how the media creates drama and that they’ve done great things at Tennessee while he’s been there. That kind of paranoia usually comes about when you’re feeling the pressure. After this game, Jones said that it’s “gut check time”. How is it “gut check time” after a game against one of your biggest rivals? Shouldn’t it have been “gut check time” before this game? What about after losing to Florida on a Hail Mary? If I were a Tennessee fan (I dry heaved writing that), I’d be 100% done with this guy. He said last season wasn’t a disappointment (it definitely was), he declared Tennessee the “Champions of Life”, and he constantly seems to patronize his fan base. Tennessee still has to play Alabama to, and that could get very, very ugly. I predicted before the season that Tennessee would lose to Tech, Florida, and Georgia in September and that Jones would not make it to October. Well, that was very close to coming true.
7. Throwing caution to the wind: Okay, I’m done. I’m done being a cautious Georgia fan. I’m going to borrow some of that confidence and swagger that Coach Smart has brought to this team and get really cocky. Does pride cometh before a fall? Sure, but I don’t care. This team is so fun to watch and the defense might be the best in the country. They’re certainly in the discussion for that distinction. The next two games are at Vandy and a night game against Missouri at Sanford Stadium. The way Georgia is handling their business right now, I fully expect the Dawgs to handle those games pretty easily. This brings us to Florida. This Florida team has struggled on offense, and that plays right into Georgia’s hand with their defense. I expect the Dawgs to win in Jacksonville. I also expect Georgia to beat Kentucky and South Carolina. The only games that worry me honestly are Auburn and Tech, but we can get to those later. I’m feeling too good to worry right now. Thanks for the swagger Kirby.
(Disclaimer: I fully expect people to throw this in my face if I’m proven incorrect, but again, I don’t care right now. I’m feeling savage.)