Position-by-position edge: Georgia-Tennessee
Taking a position-by-position look at Saturday’s matchup between Georgia and Tennessee at Neyland Stadium (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS):
QUARTERBACK — Tennessee: If you go by preseason hype and expectations, this is a runaway win for Tennessee at this position. If you take into account how each has played so far this season, it becomes much closer. I’m going to give a small nod to Joshua Dobbs here. He can’t match Greyson Lambert’s passing stats — Lambert has 30 more yards and 2 more touchdowns — but he is much more mobile (250 rushing yards and 3 TDs) and he isn’t looking over his shoulder. Lambert was benched during last week’s loss to Alabama, and that’s never great for a quarterback’s confidence. His replacement, Brice Ramsey, doesn’t appear to be a significantly better option at this point.
RUNNING BACKS — Georgia: Nick Chubb and Sony Michel can make a strong case for being the best 1-2 punch at running back in the nation. Chubb is second in the SEC with 745 yards and is tied for 3rd with 7 rushing touchdowns. Michel has 276 yards and 4 rushing TDs in a backup role. Tennessee’s Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara won’t lose many matchups at the running back position. Hurd is 6th in the league with 492 yards and tied with Chubb with 7 scoring runs, while Kamara has 247 yards and 3 TDs.
WIDE RECEIVERS, TIGHT END — Georgia: Neither school boasts amazing receiving stats, but Georgia has a true No. 1 receiver, while the Volunteers are still looking for that guy. Malcolm Mitchell has 23 catches for 371 yards and 3 touchdowns to lead the Bulldogs. Freshman Terry Godwin is the only other Bulldog with at least 10 catches. Tight end Ethan Wolf and Josh Malone pace the Vols with 12 grabs each, while freshman Preston Williams has been a big-play threat with a 23.4 yards per catch and 2 TDs.
OFFENSIVE LINE — Georgia: Both teams rank near the top of the SEC in rushing offense, with Georgia averaging about 20 more yards a game on the ground than Tennessee. The production in their passing games aren’t separated by much either. The tiebreaker? Sacks allowed. Tennessee has allowed 10 sacks in its five games while Georgia has only surrendered 5, tied for 2nd in the SEC.
DEFENSIVE LINE — Tennessee: Georgia is a little better against the run, but the Volunteers are getting more big plays from its defensive line than the Bulldogs. Georgia has 4.5 tackles for loss and a sack out of its defensive linemen this season while Tennessee’s line has managed 9.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks. To be fair, it’s worth pointing out that Georgia’s linemen are called upon more as space-eaters, freeing up the linebacking corps to make plays at or behind the line of scrimmage.
LINEBACKERS — Georgia: The injury to Tennessee’s Curt Maggitt earlier this season removes the doubt from this comparison. Georgia’s linebackers have more tackles for loss (16.0-14.5) and more sacks (7.0-5.0) as a unit. Jordan Jenkins, Tim Kimbrough and Jake Ganus have combined for 91 tackles on the year for the Bulldogs. Tennessee’s Jalen Reeves-Maybin is off to a fine start this season with 51 tackles and 3.0 sacks. Freshman Darrin Kirkland Jr. also has 21 stops in his first college season.
SECONDARY — Georgia: The Volunteers rank near the top of the league in pass breakups and passes defended, while Georgia ranks near the bottom in both categories. But a look at the overall pass defense rankings tells a far different story. Georgia is second in the SEC, allowing just under 171 yards a game through the air. Tennessee, on the other hand, is 13th at 242 yards per contest. Dominick Sanders has a pair of interceptions for the Bulldogs while Aaron Davis and Reggie Wilkerson each have 1. LaDarrell McNeil and Todd Kelly Jr. each have 2 picks for Tennessee.