Tennessee hosts Georgia on Saturday in a game that at least one sportswriter has hyped as the biggest game for Coach Phillip Fulmer since the Volunteers played Florida State for the national championship nine seasons ago. I wouldn't go that far, but there is a lot riding on the game for both Fulmer and the program.
The program is not what it once was, and the two lopsided losses to California and Florida have poured salt into wounds that have festered since the forgettable 2005 season (in which we finished with a 5-6 record). We have played poorly against good teams this year. Georgia is not the caliber of Cal and Florida, but they are a solid club that has repeatedly shown the ability to play well on the road. Their win at Alabama two weeks ago was especially impressive.
With Florida's loss to Auburn, the Eastern Division is wide open again especially since there is a good chance the Gators will lose to LSU this weekend. Both Tennessee and Georgia already have one conference loss so the loser of this game will be at a significant disadvantage the rest of the way when it comes to winning the division. Simply put, both teams have to have this game.
The bottom line is that Tennessee's defense has consistently given up back-breaking big plays even against lesser opponents like Arkansas State. The offense has played well, but it has allowed opposing defenses to return turnovers for touchdowns in three games. Additionally, our punt coverage team stinks.
My heart really wants to pick the Volunteers, but I followed my heart instead of my head when I picked them to beat Florida. Not this time. The Vols haven't shown the skill to beat a top notch team yet.
Prove me wrong, guys.
The pick: Georgia 34 Tennessee 27
As for the Tennessee Titans, they return to action against the Atlanta Falcons this week.
On the surface, it might appear that not playing last week was a good thing for them, but I am not so sure. They played extremely well the first three games, and I hated to see that flow get interrupted. Teams often are a little rusty after having a week off, so let's hope the Titans get their mojo back quickly.
The Falcons and Titans are bonded in a unique way in that both teams know what it is like to be distracted by a star player. Of course, 'Pac-Man' Jones was a distraction for the Titans the last couple of years, while the Falcons had to deal with the Michael Vick circus. The absence of these players obviously impacts this game, but the Titans appear to be weathering the storm quite well without 'Pac-Man.' I wonder if he is noticing.
The Falcons got their first win last week by beating the Houston Texans. I’m glad they won because it might have been a bit tricky if they had come here winless. Even bad teams in the NFL have a lot of talent and at some point the Falcons will begin shaking off their Michael Vick haze.
It won't be this week. The Titans will likely struggle early in the game and look for it to be close heading into the second half. However, quarterback Vince Young has the knack of converting critical third downs, and the defense is really beginning to mature.
The pick: Tennessee 24 Atlanta 16
Other SEC picks: LSU over Florida, Kentucky over South Carolina, Auburn over Vanderbilt, Alabama over Houston, Arkansas over UT-Chattanooga, Ole Miss over Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State over Alabama-Birmingham
Other NFL picks: Indianapolis over Tampa Bay, Jacksonville over Kansas City, Houston over Miami, Green Bay over Chicago, Dallas over Buffalo
Last week: 10-3 (.769), Overall: 45-12 (.789)