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How Tennessee is shaping up to be a bigger rival for UGA

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The Tennessee and Georgia connections are only going to continue to run deeper

For a majority of Georgia fans, Tennessee isn’t the biggest rival. DawgNation Daily host Brandon Adams think that belongs to Georgia-Florida. For me, I tend to lean towards Georgia Tech, simply because losing to Georgia Tech is just the worst.

There also isn’t quite the same level of history between the Volunteers and the likes of Florida, Georgia Tech and Auburn. Every Georgia fan knows about Herschel Walker running over Tennessee linebacker Bill Bates in 1980, but the Volunteers and Bulldogs didn’t start playing annually until 1992.

And the “rivalry” hasn’t been all that balanced either. The Volunteers won every game in the 90’s between the two sides, while Georgia has won 7 of the 9 games played in the 2010’s. And the two losses came in a game where Georgia lost star Nick Chubb on the opening drive of the game, and when the Volunteers caught Hail Mary on the game’s final play. Let’s just agree to never talk about those games again.

But things have started to get very spicy between the two schools since Tennessee hired Jeremy Pruitt, who was Georgia’s defensive coordinator for two seasons.

Many thought Pruitt would build another Alabama-type program, but the reality is that it has a lot more Georgia influence than Alabama. On Pruitt’s staff, five of his on-field assistant coaches have previous coaching experience in Athens: Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, c0-defensive coordinator Kevin Sherrer, offensive line coach Will Friend, defensive line coach Tracy Rocker and tight ends coach Brian Niedermeyer.

Georgia and Tennessee also have had some interesting recruiting wins in the other’s state. The Bulldogs landed the No. 2 player in Tennessee in 2019 in defensive end Bill Norton. The Volunteers landed the No. 2 player in Georgia in offensive tackle Wanya Morris. Georgia also landed the top player in the state of Tennessee in 2018 in offensive lineman Cade Mays.

Pruitt and Georgia coach Kirby Smart are both Nick Saban disciples. They both served as defensive coordinators under Saban and both specialize in defensive backs. They’re both strong recruiters, and as shown by Pruitt hiring Chaney to be his offensive coordinator, the two head coaches both think about football in a similar way.

Pruitt is trying to turn Tennessee into what Georgia is under Smart: The top SEC challenger to Saban and Alabama. Pruitt is basically  creating the “Spider-Man pointing meme,” with Kirby Smart and Georgia being the other Spider-Man.

Of course, Tennessee still has a ways to go to get on Georgia’s level. The Volunteers have missed a bowl game in each of the last two seasons, as they went 5-7 in Pruitt’s first year. Georgia beat Tennessee 38-12 last season, but the game was closer than that in the fourth quarter. The last time Smart and the Bulldogs went to Knoxville, as they’ll have to do in 2019, Georgia came away with a decisive 41-0 victory.

Georgia has more important rivals to focus on in 2019, as Florida looks to be a team that will begin the season ranked in the top-10, and playing Auburn in Auburn is always tricky. But if Pruitt gets enough time, and there’s a chance he might not given Phillip Fulmer’s presence and the volatility of the Tennessee fan base, he could create a mirror image of Georgia.

Tennessee and Pruitt might not make a better football product than what Smart puts out, as right now the two schools aren’t even remotely competing for the same things. But it is something that Georgia will have to contend with as it tries to win a national title in the coming years.

Georgia-Alabama game named the No. 2 game of the college football season

While the ending wasn’t what any Georgia fan wanted, the SEC championship game between Georgia and Alabama was unquestionably one of the best games of the season.

SBNation ranked the top 100 games of the season, and the Georgia-Alabama tilt came in at No. 2, behind only the seven overtime spectacle that was Texas A&M-LSU this year.

This isn’t the first time that Georgia-Alabama have played a great game that a casual fan can enjoy, as the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide battled tooth and nail in the 2018 national championship game.

Unfortunately, Georgia fans won’t ever be able to enjoy either of those Alabama games given the final score. If fans are looking for a thrilling Georgia game that the Bulldogs actually won, I’d suggest you look for the Rose Bowl against Oklahoma last year.

The Georgia-Alabama game was the only Georgia game from 2018 to make the list, which makes sense given that most of the games in the top 100 where close games. The Bulldogs played only two games that were decided by one-score this season. The Bulldogs lost both of those as the Alabama game was the first and then Georgia lost 28-21 in the Sugar Bowl against Texas.

Georgia is likely to see a few more close games next year, as the Bulldogs welcome the likes of Notre Dame and Texas A&M to Sanford Stadium. The Bulldogs beat Notre Dame 20-19 in 2017, and both the Aggies and Fighting Irish figure to be top 15 teams in 2019. Georgia’s 2019 season opens on Aug. 31, when the Bulldogs take on Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn.

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