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Stakes are high in Georgia-Tennessee game

Bacarri Rambo isn’t afraid to admit it. He isn’t ashamed of his crime, and he’s happy to talk about it.

Ladies and gentlemen, Georgia’s junior safety is guilty of peeking at the SEC standings. He knows where the Bulldogs sit and he knows where other teams in the SEC East are as well.

Shame on him for not having a robot approach to football life!

Honestly, Rambo isn’t alone. In fact, he got a text message from one of his coaches Saturday night informing him where Georgia stood after South Carolina and Florida both lost that day.

Sorry, Coach, but Rambo had been watching some of the South Carolina game.

So it comes as no surprise that Rambo knows exactly what is on the line when Georgia travels to Tennessee this weekend.

With quarterback questions at both South Carolina and Florida, a victory likely elevates the Bulldogs to the status of favorite in a rather average SEC East. Georgia would easily become the most balanced-looking team on this side of the division if it tops the Vols.

For Rambo, he never considered Georgia out of the East hunt, and a win Saturday would prove that.

“We knew since we went 0-2 that the doors were still open for us ... we still had 10 more games to play,” Rambo said.

“Now, we see that it’s open and we have to take advantage of it.”

That means first getting a win in a place where Georgia is 8-11-1 all time and where it suffered a 45-19 blowout loss on its most recent trip. This easily becomes the biggest game between these two since 2007, when Tennessee's 35-14 win eventually propelled the Vols into the SEC title game.

After Tennessee, Georgia’s SEC schedule is much more painless than those of its East counterparts. There is a trip to Vanderbilt, then Jacksonville, Fla., to play Florida before the Bulldogs get Auburn and Kentucky at home.

Getting this win will get the Bulldogs even closer to their end goal.

“Every time we play in the SEC, it’s a big game for us because this is the way that we can get back to the Georgia Dome, by winning the SEC East,” Rambo said.

“There’s a little bit of pressure, but there’s no telling what might happen.”

Tennessee is almost in the same boat. The only difference is that the Volunteers are looking up at Georgia, Florida and South Carolina after losing to the Gators. A victory would put Tennessee in the thick of the East race.

However, coach Derek Dooley isn’t looking to talk about that. He isn’t thinking about championships or races.

“The last thing that we need to be talking about is Atlanta,” Dooley said. “We need to go win a conference game. To me, it’s not title town right now. Down the stretch, that’s when you really start looking at the numbers.

“Right now, it’s week to week; we got a great opponent in Georgia. They whipped us good last year, so we just need to worry about beating Georgia. All that other stuff will take care of itself down the stretch.”

Dooley has the right idea. Premature talk can ravage a young team mentally, and Dooley isn’t looking to risk that.

It might be easier to see where Dooley is coming from after you glance at the second half of Tennessee’s season.

Tennessee hosts LSU next week before traveling to Alabama, hosts South Carolina and then gets back on the road to face Arkansas two weeks later. That’s one of the toughest five-week stretches in the SEC this season.

A loss Saturday won’t make that stretch any easier, but a win could give the Vols some much-needed confidence heading into the gauntlet.

The stakes are high Saturday, but Georgia junior wide receiver Tavarres King isn’t giving in to the hype. He says he isn’t concerned with the SEC standings at this point because it takes the focus away. To him, Saturday is about getting first downs and touchdowns.

Still, King isn’t shy to admit that Atlanta is the goal and winning Saturday gets the Bulldogs closer to that.

“Our goal has been the same since day one, and that’s winning the East,” he said. “That’s priority No. 1.”