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With its SEC East hopes on the line, Tennessee hits the road Saturday to take on unbeaten Georgia at Sanford Stadium in Athens.
As of Friday afternoon, most books were listing Georgia (4-0 straight up, 2-2 against the spread) as a 14-point favorite with the total for ‘over/under’ wagers in the 58-59 range. The Volunteers are plus-450 on the money line (risk $100 to win $450).
Mark Richt’s team blasted Vanderbilt by a 48-3 count as a 14 ½-point home favorite last week. The Bulldogs were led by true freshman running back Todd Gurley, who rushed 16 times for 130 yards and two touchdowns. Keith Marshall also had a pair of touchdown scampers and finished with 82 rushing yards on 10 carries.
Junior quarterback Aaron Murray completed 18-of-24 passes for 250 yards and two TDs without an interception. Marlon Brown had five receptions for 114 yards and one TD against the Commodores.
UGA’s offense is averaging 47.5 points per game thanks to the stellar play of Murray, who has a 10/2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The loss of Isaiah Crowell has turned into an addition-by-subtraction scenario, as Gurley has emerged as a force. Gurley has rushed for 406 yards and six touchdowns, averaging an eye-opening 9.2 yards per carry.
Prior to the win over Vandy, Georgia posted wins vs. Buffalo (45-23), at Missouri (41-20) and vs. FAU (56-20). The Bulldogs won their first two games without four defensive starters. In fact, they are going to be at full strength for the first time this year vs. UT.
All-SEC safety Bacarri Rambo and LB Alec Ogletree will make their season debuts after serving four-game suspensions.
Tennessee (3-1 SU, 1-3 ATS) has wins over N.C. St. (35-21), Ga. St. (51-13) and Akron (47-26), but the Vols let a second-half lead get away in a 37-20 loss to Florida as three-point home favorites in their SEC opener. They’ll be playing their first true road game of the year at UGA.
Junior QB Tyler Bray ranks third in the nation with an SEC-best 1,301 passing yards. He has connected on 63.5 percent of his passes with a 12/3 TD-INT ratio. Bray is tied with three others for the country’s lead in TD passes.
Tennessee has a pair of premier wide receivers in juniors Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson. Hunter is second in the SEC and sixth in the nation in receiving yards (410). Hunter, who tore his ACL in Week 3 at Florida last year, has 30 receptions and four TD grabs.
Patterson, a juco transfer, has 19 catches for 259 yards and two TDs. Patterson has also rushed for 102 yards and one TD on just five carries, and he’s second in the SEC in all-purpose yardage.
UT is led in rushing by junior RB Rajion Neal, who has 356 yards and three TDs with a 4.5 YPC average. Neal will face a UGA run defense led by All-American LB Jarvis Jones, who dominated in the win at Missouri with a spectacular performance. Jones is 10th in the SEC in tackles (24), third in sacks (4.5), second in tackles for losses (7.5) and second in forced fumbles (3). He also had a key interception in the win over the Tigers.
UGA owns a 9-5 spread record in its last 14 games as a home favorite since 2010. The Bulldogs have won three of the last four head-to-head meetings against UT, covering the spread the last two years. However, we should note that the Vols are 4-2 ATS in the last six encounters.
Dooley is winless in 11 career games against ranked opponents. UT is 2-4 ATS as a road underdog during Dooley’s three-year tenure.
The ‘over’ is 4-0 for UGA this year, 3-0 for the Vols.
When these teams met in Knoxville at Neyland Stadium last year, UGA captured a 20-12 win as a 2 ½-point road ‘chalk.’ Bray threw for 251 yards, while Murray had 227 passing yards. Neither QB had a TD pass or an interception.
CBS will have Saturday’s telecast from between the hedges at 3:30 p.m. Eastern.
Brian Edwards can be reached at email@example.com.
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