One team (Georgia) has a score to settle. In fact it has two scores to settle.
The other team (Tennessee) and its embattled coach (Butch Jones) are hanging on to this season by a thread.
Put it all together and you have the makings of a very intense football game when No. 7 Georgia (4-0, 1-0 SEC) goes to Tennessee (3-1, 0-1) on Saturday (3:30 p.m., CBS).
The last six meetings between these SEC East rivals have been one-possession games. This one is full of great story lines. Here are but a few. [membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership]
HAIL MARY REVENGE
Georgia’s most recent memories of playing Tennessee are not good. Last season in Athens Georgia thought it had the game won when freshman quarterback Jacob Eason threw a 47-yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds left to give Georgia a 31-28 lead.
But then things unraveled. Georgia was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty on the celebration. Then there was an off-sides on the ensuing kick. That left Tennessee on the Georgia 43-yard line with time (7 seconds) for one play.
Joshua Dobbs heaved it into the end zone and Jauan Jennings outjumped four Georgia defenders and came down with it for the winning score.
“I’ll never forget it,” said Aaron Davis, the Georgia defensive back. “That one haunted us for a long time.”
“We work on that play every Thursday,” said Kirby Smart, Georgia’s second year head coach. “Of course last year we worked on it the Thursday before we played Tennessee.”
CHUBB’S RETURNS TO PAINFUL MEMORY
Two years ago in Knoxville Georgia running back Nick Chubb suffered a terrible knee injury during a 38-31 loss.
He came back to rush for 1,130 yards last season as a junior. This season he is averaging 6.3 yards per carry. On Saturday he will play at Neyland Stadium for the last time. It is the site of the most painful memory of his football career. It will be interesting to see how he plays.
“I think Nick is as good as he’s ever been,” said Sony Michel, his fellow running back.
In the 2015 game, Tennessee rallied from a 24-3 deficit to win 38-31.
IS JONES PLAYING FOR HIS JOB?
It has been a difficult stretch for Tennessee’s Jones, in his fifth year in Knoxville. His 2016 team was picked to win the SEC East but didn’t. So he began this season with questions about his future.
This year’s team lost on a Hail Mary touchdown against Florida on Sept. 16. Last week the Vols muddled through a game with 0-5 UMass. There are a lot of Volunteer fans who say they want Jones gone. And it didn’t help matters when Jones went on a rant against the media at his weekly press conference on Monday saying "Sometimes the negativity is overwhelming." Statements like that, of course, only give ammunition to the people who believe that while Jones has done some really good things in Knoxville, is not quite up to a job like Tennessee.
When I talked to Jones on Wednesday he seemed to be pretty relaxed. We’ll see. Tennessee has lost 26 straight games against teams ranked in the AP Top 10.
“Every week is a new season,” said Jones.
In the SEC, that can be both good or bad.
CLEMSON ON UPSET ALERT?
No. 2 Clemson (4-0, 2-0 ACC), the defending national champion, has an 11-game winning streak on the road. No. 12 Virginia Tech (4-0, 0-0) gave Clemson all it wanted in their last meeting, losing 42-35 in the ACC championship game in December.
Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va., is one of the toughest places to play in college football when it’s rocking. And it’s going to be rocking Saturday night when Clemson visits for a national-televised game (8 p.m., ABC).
It is the first time that two ranked teams have played at Virginia Tech since Clemson won 23-3 in 2011.
Virginia Tech went 5-1 at home last season, the first for Justin Fuente as the Hokies head coach. Fuente says Clemson is so talented that playing them is like “defusing a bomb. One small snip of the wire that’s incorrect and ‘boom.’”
DON’T FORGET ABOUT AUBURN
A lot of people in my part of the world wrote off Auburn after the Tigers lost 14-6 at No. 2 Clemson.
But Auburn (3-1, 1-0) has its next two games with Mississippi State and Ole Miss at home. Then it goes on the road to play LSU, Arkansas and Texas A&M, none of which have been world beaters this season.
Auburn’s defense is superb as the Tigers are one of three teams in FBS that has not given up more than 14 points in a game. The offense is getting better as on Saturday Auburn will have both running backs—Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson—healthy enough to play.
So it is more than possible that Auburn will be 8-1 when it hosts No. 7 Georgia on Nov. 11.
**--Alabama’s last loss to an SEC team was to Ole Miss in 2015 in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide has won 18 straight conference games and is 30-1 against everybody else since that loss to the Rebels. Alabama has won 68 straight games against unranked opponents.
**--True freshman Myles Brennan got 16 snaps at quarterback for LSU last week against Syracuse. Let’s see how many snaps he gets against Troy with a trip to Florida coming up next week.
**--Florida is 2-0 in the SEC and could easily be 0-2. The Gators threw a Hail Mary 63-yards for a touchdown on the last play to beat Tennessee on Sept. 16. Last week they trailed 27-14 at Kentucky and won the game when Kentucky failed to cover a Florida receiver. Now they host Vanderbilt, which was boat-raced 59-0 by Alabama last week.