When the Vols take the field Saturday they'll be playing their third game in 13 days. Conversely, the Bulldogs, coming off an open date, will be playing their FIRST game during that same span.
It's The Taxed versus The Relaxed, and that's not a fair fight. If two runners step to the starting line, one having just finished a marathon, the other having just finished an eight-hour nap, which would you bet on?
Sure, Tennessee's players are young and resilient. But how resilient did they look against Ole Miss last Saturday? Answer: They had barely enough gas in the tank to grind their way to an ugly victory over a seriously outmanned foe.
There are other reasons to pick Georgia this weekend, of course. For instance:
1. The Dawgs seem to play better at Neyland Stadium than the Vols do, winning 26-24 in 2001 and 41-14 in 2003.
2. Georgia has the kind of mobile quarterback (D.J. Shockley) that usually gives Tennessee's defense fits.
3. The Dawgs have enough speed on defense to play tight press coverage, forcing Rick Clausen out of his nickel-and-dime passing attack. Florida used the same tactic so effectively that Clausen was pulled after completing two of five throws for zero net yards in a 16-7 Game 2 loss.
4. The Vols' offense has no big-play dimension, which is why their best drives generally stall around the opponent's 30-yard line.
Still, Tennessee's greatest obstacle may be fatigue.
After rallying from a 21-0 deficit to beat LSU on Sept. 26, then struggling past Ole Miss on Oct. 1, the Vols now must try to find the physical and emotional reserves to beat the NCAA's fifth-ranked team this Saturday. That's asking a lot of a battered and tired team that already played three physical SEC opponents — Florida, LSU and Ole Miss — during the previous three weeks.
"We are certainly making sure we're conscious of the physical aspect of it, what it takes out of a team to do that," head coach Phillip Fulmer said. "If it doesn't beat you up too bad, playing tough teams helps you. But if you get beat up, that's a real challenge."
Saturday is going to be a "real challenge" for Tennessee. Don't take my word for it, though. Ask Tarzan.