Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) looks for a receiver as Florida linebacker Antwaun Powell-Ryland Jr. (52) rushes during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Georgia and Tennessee provide historic matchup of two No. 1 teams

As if the 2022 college football season wasn’t crazy enough, two No. 1 teams from different polls will face the field in a heated SEC rivalry on Saturday, the first time the No. 1 teams from each poll face each other.

The Georgia Bulldogs (8-0, 5-0 SEC) are ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll for the fourth week in a row. Meanwhile, the Tennessee Volunteers (8-0, 4-0 SEC) are ranked No. 1 in the season’s first College Football Playoff Poll. The Bulldogs have won the last five matchups in the series.

Saturday’s winner not only would likely lock up the No. 1 ranking in both the AP and CFP polls for Week 11, but would likely decide the Eastern Division and would lock up a playoff spot, depending on their finish to the regular season.

Kickoff from Athens, Georgia is at 3:30 p.m. on CBS.

Dominating streak for Georgia

Winners in 26 of their last 27 games, Georgia has carried over their winning ways from the 2021 national championship season into 2022. The Bulldogs are 8-0 with wins over No. 11 Oregon to open the season and are coming off a dominating 42-20 win over rival Florida.

Additionally, the AP Poll has ranked Georgia No. 1 a total of seven times this season after beginning the year at No. 3. The Bulldogs entered the first CFP Poll ranked No. 3 behind Tennessee and Ohio State. However, head coach Kirby Smart said the team isn’t focused on the ranking.

Defensively, the Bulldogs will be without star pass-rusher Nolan Smith for the rest of the season after suffering a torn pectoral against Florida. Smith leads the team with three sacks and is fifth in total tackles (18). Robert Beal Jr., who will replace Smith, has improved as the season has progressed, according to Smart.

Without Smith, the Bulldogs will have a tougher time defending a fast-paced Tennessee offense led by quarterback Hendon Hooker. Overall, Smart said that there are many things that make defending the Tennessee offense difficult.

Despite three turnovers against the Gators, Georgia’s offense shined last week. Quarterback Stetson Bennett IV threw for 316 yards and two touchdowns while running backs Daijun Edwards and Kenny McIntosh combined for 196 yards and four scores. Bennett IV’s 2349 passing yards is second in the SEC.

With a win, the Bulldogs will be in the driver’s seat in the SEC East in their attempt to repeat as division champions. The Bulldogs travel to Mississippi State on Nov. 12 before concluding SEC play at Kentucky the following week. Georgia returns home for the regular season finale against in-state rival Georgia Tech on Nov. 26.

Tennessee back to winning ways

For the first time since the 1998 season, Tennessee is ranked No. 1 in a major poll. That national championship season, the Volunteers dominated the AP Poll, but this season the Volunteers are ranked No. 1 in the CFP Poll for the first time ever.

Second-year head coach Josh Heupel said the potential ranking was something they discussed as a team, but they are focused on their next matchup.

A former national champion from his playing days at Oklahoma, Heupel sees similarities from that Sooners team to his team now.

Tennessee’s offense has shined with Hooker leading the way. The senior’s 2338 passing yards ranks third in the conference, thanks in large part to receiver Jaylin Hyatt. Hyatt leads the league with 907 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.

Despite being known for their passing offense, Heupel said the goal is to have a balanced attack.

As much as the Tennessee offense has rolled, the Tennessee defense has struggled at times. The Volunteers allow 393.6 yards per game, fifth-highest in the SEC. In the passing game, Tennessee allows just over 300 yards a game, third-highest in the league. Facing a national champion quarterback in Bennett IV, Heupel described what makes defending him difficult.

A win would give Tennessee their first win over the Bulldogs since 2016 and their first 9-0 start since 1998. Additionally, a win would put the Volunteers as the sole No. 1 seed in the Eastern Division. Tennessee last won the Eastern Division in 2007.

SEC Week 10

Thirteen of the conference’s 14 teams are in action on Saturday. No. 11 Ole Miss (8-1, 4-1 SEC) is on a bye after a 31-28 win over Texas A&M.

Kicking off the SEC Week 10 slate are two noon matchups. Missouri (4-4, 2-3 SEC) hosts Kentucky (5-3, 2-3 SEC) on the SEC Network while Florida (4-4, 1-4 SEC) takes on Texas A&M (3-5, 1-4 SEC) in College Station on ESPN.

At 4 p.m., unranked Arkansas (5-3, 2-3 SEC) looks to win their third-straight when they host Liberty (7-1).

Three SEC games take up the evening slate, including a top-10 matchup in the Western Division. No. 10 LSU (6-2, 4-1 SEC) hosts No. 6 Alabama (7-1, 4-1 SEC) at 7 p.m. on ESPN. At 7:30, Auburn begins the post-Bryan Harsin-era with a matchup on the road against Mississippi State on ESPN2. Additionally, South Carolina looks to get back into the win column with a matchup on the road against Vanderbilt at 7:30 on the SEC Network.

About Cam Parker

Cam is a fourth-year broadcast journalism sports and media major at the University of Florida. In addition to writing and recording radio trendings for WRUF, Cam covers North Florida HS football for The Prep Zone and Mainstreet Daily News and UF football and basketball for Inside the Gators.

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