Georgia Bulldogs: Tennessee Game A Matter Of Mental Toughness

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The Georgia Bulldogs (4-0) make the trip to Knoxville, Tennessee Saturday. This massive SEC East showdown will be a mental challenge for both teams.

Georgia Bulldog fans, and rightfully so, have been a little quicker in their step this week. The convincing win over the “other” Bulldogs of MSU last Saturday in Athens was the latest sign that improvement in 2017 is taking hold. The game this Saturday against the Tennessee Volunteers (3-1) will test both teams for mental toughness and discipline.

This game always matters. Well, at least since 1992 it has. It mattered before that, I guess, but it wasn’t a yearly thing. It certainly wasn’t a make or break thing, as far as I can read. But since 1992, it is one of those seismic games for the SEC East Division.

This year is no different, but for different reasons. Both UGA and UT come into this game with questions about mental toughness. Both squads come into this game needing to reassure its fan base that this year can still be what they hoped for in August.

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A quick gander at any Tennessee message board and one will find a majority of conversations surrounding firing Head Coach Butch Jones. That may seem strange for outsiders when thinking about a team that is (3-1) on the season and heading into a season defining home game.

There has been a lot of “smoke” coming out of Knoxville this week. Jones had a tempestuous and much maligned press conference on Tuesday. Rumors of locker room strife and contention. The lackluster performance against UMass last week. All of this has put “Vol Nation” in a foul mood.

Georgia, on the other hand, comes into this game with a feeling that things have turned in Athens for the good. It wasn’t just that they beat MSU, they never trailed, and thoroughly dominated. The Defense and Special Teams look special.

But there is the rub for UGA fans. This is exactly the type of game former Head Coach Mark Richt would lose. “Dawg Nation” knows it. It is a major reason why Richt isn’t going to retire as a Coach in Athens.

Look, this game is always going to be a physical one. This game is always going to be one that is a challenge for both teams. If you know anything about the history of this series, this game is one that will probably be close.

But for different reasons these teams come in needing to solidify and exemplify mental toughness. For the Vols, can they shake the rumor mill and outside noise and win a massive game at home. The kind of win that quiets the whispers and points to possible SEC East contention.

For Georgia, can they follow-up a big win, handle a Top-10 ranking nationally, and go on the road in a very hostile environment, that usually treats them poorly, and make a statement? Can they manage the expectations of being favored and exorcise ghosts of recent past failures in this exact kind of scenario?

This game will be physical. Tennessee comes in with a bunch of injuries. And yes, UGA is favored by 7.5 points on the road. On paper, Georgia should win easily.

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We’re about to find out if they can carry that weight.