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NY Post
New York Post
18 Nov 2023


NextImg:Georgia vs. Tennessee prediction: College football picks, SEC odds

The Georgia Bulldogs are still undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings.

Kirby Smart’s squad hasn’t lost a game in 27 tries.

However, the Bulldogs have come close a few times this season.

They’re only 2-7 against the spread this year, surviving upset bids against South Carolina, Auburn and Missouri. 

That said, I’m not worried about Georgia as a double-digit road favorite in Knoxville this week.

Carson Beck and the Bulldogs offense has been lights out this season, especially in recent weeks.

The Bulldogs’ offense ranks fourth nationally in EPA per Play and 10th in Success Rate. Beck has snuck up to top 10 among qualified FBS quarterbacks in Total EPA and Pro Football Focus’s Passing grades. 

Beck has five 300-yard games in his past seven tries, with 15 touchdowns and only four interceptions in those contests. He just shredded Ole Miss for more than 300 yards at 12.2 yards per attempt last week. 

Beck even handled a few weeks without superstar tight end Brock Bowers.

But Bowers is back in the fold, and top wideout Ladd McConkey returned to full strength in Week 7.

Brock Bowers

Georgia’s Brock Bowers is one of the top tight ends in the country.
AP

Combine those returning weapons with Mike Bobo’s solid play-calling, and Georgia’s offense is firing on all cylinders. They’ve averaged 42.6 points per game over the past five weeks.  

I expect this offense to put up another big number on Tennessee’s defense. 

The Vols’ defense has been surprisingly stingy, but mainly at the point of attack. They’re an excellent rush defense (sixth nationally in Rush Success Rate allowed) and boast an elite pass rush (13th nationally in pressure rate). 

However, they’re also vulnerable in the back end of the secondary. The Vols rank 61st nationally in Pass Explosiveness allowed and 58th in 20-yard pass completions allowed. 

Beck has been elite targeting deep downfield (90.6 PFF passing grade on 20-plus yard passes), with Bowers (13.7 yards per reception) and McConkey (16.1 yards per reception) consistently pulling down deep balls. 

I imagine Georgia exploits that matchup.

Meanwhile, I don’t think Tennessee can exploit Georgia’s one defensive weakness. 

The Bulldogs rush defense has been questionable this year, with lackluster rankings in EPA per Rush allowed and broken plus missed tackle rate. 

However, Georgia’s struggles have come mostly against outside-zone runs. When opponents rush outside the tackles, they’ve succeeded against the Bulldogs. 

Against inside-zone rushes, Georgia’s been fine, allowing a measly -0.05 EPA per Rush and a 39.1% Rush Success Rate, both well above average marks.

Behind Jaylen Wright (7.2 yards per carry) and an offensive line that ranks in the top 25 nationally in Line Yards, the Vols boast a highly effective ground attack. However, they also primarily call inside-zone and power rushes, ranking third nationally in inside-zone/power rush attempts with 235 and second nationally in rush yards off those sets with 1,406. 

If Tennessee can’t establish the rush, it’s a death sentence because Joe Milton is among the nation’s most inconsistent quarterbacks. 

His 63.1 PFF passing grade is lackluster, as is his 10:7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. By Total EPA, Milton ranks eighth among 14 SEC quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts in conference play. 

Milton has a massive arm, yes. But he’s not consistent or accurate on a drive-by-drive basis, is terrible under pressure and can’t extend plays. 

As a result, Tennessee’s passing attack hasn’t gotten off the ground this season. The Vols can only move the ball effectively on the ground. 

Meanwhile, Georgia’s secondary looks as good as ever. The Bulldogs rank eighth in Pass Success Rate allowed, 14th in EPA per Pass allowed and fifth in PFF’s coverage grades. 

Ultimately, I don’t expect Tennessee to score much Saturday. But I expect Beck and Co. to generate plenty of explosive passing plays. 

Georgia’s won by nine or more in five straight games, and I expect the Bulldogs to cover a double-digit spread in a favorable matchup. 

Georgia -10 (-110, Caesars) | Play to -12.5 (-110)