These are the games that make champions, Heisman Trophy winners and high NFL Draft picks. Tennessee football is loaded with veteran talent and has a good mix of emerging and established stars well into Josh Heupel’s second year, and the Vols will need all of them in a game of the highest magnitude this regular season at the Georgia Bulldogs.
If you thought the Alabama Crimson Tide game made stars out of Vols, this one’s way bigger. It’s a divisional game, Rocky Top is ranked much higher, and it’s the highest combined ranking for any regular season game UT has ever played in. That applies whether or not you go by the College Football Playoff, AP Poll or Coaches Poll.
Of course, Tennessee football is No. 1 in the CFP, sending expectations through the roof. However, they have proven, mentally tough players who have met these expectations and have only gotten better as the year has gone on. Here are the five Vols among those who must step up Saturday.
The Tennessee football Volunteers will need their best playmakers to step up in Athens, Ga., Saturday against the UGA Dawgs.
6’4″ 320 pounds
An elite interior line is a proven way to give Georgia trouble. The Missouri Tigers have by far the best interior defensive line of anybody the Dawgs have faced this year if you look at their advanced metrics. They had a 10-point lead in the second half against UGA and were a missed false start away from winning the game.
Well, if you go by data on Football Outsiders, the Vols are a close second. Anchoring them up front has been breakout star Omari Thomas. For the year, Thomas has two and a half tackles for a loss, two sacks, three pass deflections, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and 18 tackles, eight of which were solo.
Against Georgia, Thomas will be huge. He’ll be a crucial part of Tennessee football being able to stop the run. He did have a sack last week against the Kentucky Wildcats and helped shut down an elite rush offense, but the test will be much greater this week. This could be his breakout game.