Are we getting ahead of ourselves? It’s possible. However, the probabilities aren’t too far out there to suggest that when Tennessee football faces the Georgia Bulldogs next week, they’ll be part of the biggest regular season game in each school’s history and all of SEC East history.
Currently, UT is No. 3 in both polls, the Ohio State Buckeyes are No. 2, and Georgia is No. 1. Given who all three teams are playing Saturday, there’s a greater than slim chance that the Vols and Georgia is a No. 2 vs. No. 1 matchup.
Ohio State has the toughest test of the three this weekend. If they are going to lose a regular season game, Saturday is one of their two chances, as they visit the Penn State Nittany Lions, a top 15 team. That game isn’t easy.
You can point out what the Michigan Wolverines did to Penn State. That game was at Michigan, though, while this one is at Penn State. Also, don’t forget 2016, when Michigan blew out Penn State, but Penn State still beat Ohio State. Simply put, it isn’t crazy.
If you were to bet on which of those three teams is most likely to lose Saturday, you would bet on Ohio State. Sure, Tennessee football also plays a ranked team in the Kentucky Wildcats, but Kentucky isn’t as good as Penn State, and the Vols have them at home.
Meanwhile, UGA faces the Florida Gators, and while that game is at a neutral site, it’s pretty clear that the Dawgs are significantly better. In fact, it would be a shock if next week’s game between the Vols isn’t at the very least a No. 3 vs. No. 1 matchup, as both teams should win.
Of course, Ohio State doesn’t even have to lose to Penn State. What if they win in ugly fashion while Tennessee football blows out Kentucky and Georgia blows out Florida? Couldn’t the Vols then move to the No. 2 spot while UGA stays No. 1.
That’s even more possible given the fact that some media members at the very least would want to move the Vols up to No. 2 just to make the case for a No. 2 vs. No. 1 matchup. Who wouldn’t want that storyline going into next week?
It hasn’t been since 2011 that a No. 2 team and No. 1 team in every relevant poll faced off in the regular season. To be fair, the Alabama Crimson Tide and LSU Tigers were No. 1 and No. 2, interchangeably, in the AP and Coaches Polls in 2019 when they faced off.
However, Oho State, ironically, was No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings that year, and that kept it from being a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup across the board. Alabama and LSU was the No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in 2011 across the board, though.
Other regular season games that this happened were Ohio State and the Michigan Wolverines in 2006, Ohio State and the Texas Longhorns in 2006, the Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles in 1996, and most notably, FSU and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in 1993. Simply put, it doesn’t happen that often.
Now, Tennessee football should focus solely on Kentucky before getting to that Georgia game, but the fact of the matter is it has to be in the back of their mind. Playing in a game of that magnitude in Josh Heupel’s second year would be the most impressive accomplishment ever, win or lose.