After an opening-drive fumble, the Bulldogs found their groove on offense, scoring touchdowns on three of their next four drives. The second half featured fewer trips to the end zone as Georgia utilized the run game to control possession. UGA quarterback Stetson Bennett shined in the SEC East battle, finishing with 257 passing yards and three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing).
Tennessee's offense looked like a shell of itself, finishing with its fewest points in a game this season and 2-14 on third down. Georgia's defense hounded Vols quarterback Hendon Hooker, sacking him six times and forcing an interception. Georgia finished with two turnovers on the day and the inside track to the SEC East title with a win.
Here are the best moments and takeaways from the Bulldogs' victory in Athens.
The SEC title -- and maybe even the College Football Playoff national championship -- will still run through the Georgia Bulldogs.
Any questions about this iteration of Georgia being good enough to win another SEC title or national championship were answered emphatically in the rout of the Volunteers. The defending national champions haven't looked great every week, but they looked pretty darn salty in their two biggest games -- a 49-3 victory against Oregon in the opener and now against Tennessee.
Georgia's defense wasn't supposed to be as good after losing so much talent, but the Bulldogs stonewalled the Vols, who came into the game leading the FBS in scoring with 49.4 points per game. Georgia's offense was the one that produced explosive passing plays and used its running game to eat up nearly nine minutes of the third quarter, keeping the UT offense on the sideline.
Georgia faces two potentially tricky road games next, at Mississippi State next week and at Kentucky on Nov. 19, before returning home for its regular-season finale against Georgia Tech. -- Mark Schlabach
File this under "Things you love to see" https://t.co/zs7c6eHmMA— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) November 5, 2022
There won't be a lot of mystery for Tennessee when it looks back on its first loss of the season.
The Vols were bullied physically, not only by Georgia's defense, but they couldn't get pressure on quarterback Stetson Bennett. The Vols had been the ones making big plays in the passing game all season, but on three different occasions Bennett found receivers running wide open down the field for big gains.
One of the most disappointing things for the Vols is that they seemed to lose their composure in the most hostile environment they have played in this season. The crowd was deafening, and Tennessee committed a litany of false-start penalties. And once Tennessee fell behind by more than two scores, everything fell on Hendon Hooker's shoulders, and the Dawgs loaded up and came after him. He was sacked five times in the second half.
At one point, it looked like Georgia might run Tennessee completely out of the stadium, but the Vols did hang around and manage to score a late touchdown.
Losing so decisively probably won't help Tennessee's playoff chances, although a lot of that depends on what happens in other conferences around the country the rest of the way. But the bottom line in this one is that the Vols simply weren't able to hold up at the line of scrimmage. -- Chris Low
Tennessee shows life
The Vols finally reached the end zone on a 5-yard run by Jaylen Wright. The extra point made it a 27-13 game.
The Vols find the end zone to cut the deficit to 14. pic.twitter.com/M7KPZ9A8xL— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 5, 2022
Weather plays a factor
The noise was a factor for Tennessee's offense, and the rain was pouring at Sanford Stadium, which caused some ball-security issues for both teams. Tennessee's Jaylen Wright and Georgia's Branson Robinson coughed it up on consecutive plays near the end of the third quarter. Before that, the Bulldogs figured out the best way to slow Tennessee's fast-paced offense -- by keeping it on the sideline. Georgia had a 15-play, 67-yard drive that took 8 minutes, 44 seconds off the clock. Jack Podlesny's 38-yard field goal gave the Bulldogs a 27-6 lead after three quarters. -- Schlabach
Georgia's not bad on offense, either. After fumbling the ball away on its opening possession, Georgia scored touchdowns on three of its next four and piled up 306 yards of offense in the first half. Quarterback Stetson Bennett handled Tennessee's pressure-based defense well, throwing for two scores and running for another one. The Bulldogs ran the ball well when they wanted to. They had just as much success against the UT secondary, which had a couple of big busts. Georgia's offensive line stifled Tennessee's defensive front, giving Bennett plenty of time to throw and the backs plenty of room to run.
On the other side of the ball, Georgia's defense did a good job of getting pressure on UT quarterback Hendon Hooker. The Bulldogs avoided breakdowns in the secondary and kept the Vols' speedy wideouts in front of them for the most part. -- Schlabach
The crowd noise was deafening in the first half, and Tennessee repeatedly put itself in third-and-long situations, which is exactly what coach Josh Heupel said the Vols needed to avoid. The Vols committed back-to-back false-start penalties after moving inside the Georgia 10-yard line in the second quarter. It was that kind of half for the Vols, who punted three times after punting a total of 18 times in their previous eight games.
All season long, Tennessee has been able to hit explosive plays in the passing game, but the Vols weren't able to hit any big plays down the field in the first half.
Over and above everything else, Georgia was the better team at the line of scrimmage in the first half. The Vols couldn't get any pressure on Bennett, who had lots of time to throw and picked apart the Vols' secondary. Tennessee was just OK running the ball and didn't have an offensive play from scrimmage longer than 17 yards. That's after coming into the game with an FBS-leading 36 plays of 30 yards or longer.
With Tennessee being held to the two Chase McGrath field goals, it was the first time this season since the 34-27 overtime win against Pittsburgh in Week 2 that the Vols had gone an entire half without scoring a touchdown. -- Low
A score before the break
The Bulldogs squeezed in one more score before the half with a field goal as time expired. Georgia entered the locker room with a 24-6 lead over Tennessee.
It's loud in Athens
The crowd noise played a factor early on for the Vols, as Tennessee had committed five false-start penalties with 9:56 left in the second quarter.
Georgia's Twitter account took note of the pre-snap miscues.
Tennessee cuts into the lead
An 11-play, 56-yard drive by Tennessee ended in a field goal as Georgia's defense stiffened up on their side of the field.
Tennessee trails 21-6.
Hot start for Bennett
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett looked like a Heisman Trophy candidate playing in Sanford Stadium on Saturday.
The former walk-on accounted for three touchdowns to give the Bulldogs an early 21-3 lead over the No. 1 Volunteers. The first one came on a 13-yard scramble in which he dodged a blitzing UT player and beat another to the corner of the end zone. The second one was a 37-yard pass to Ladd McConkey down the right sideline. McConkey put a nasty move on UT safety Doneiko Slaughter to slip past him. The third one was a 5-yard strike to Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint in the back of the end zone. Bennett completed 6 of 10 passes for 156 yards in the first quarter. He has handled UT's pressure well so far. -- Mark Schlabach
Dawgs strike fast
It took one play for the Bulldogs to extend their lead as Stetson Bennett found Ladd McConkey for a 37-yard touchdown.
Georgia leads 14-3.
The Dawgs are rolling and Sanford Stadium is LOUD 🐶 pic.twitter.com/6zgNBT9SPf— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) November 5, 2022
Bennett finds the end zone
UGA quarterback Stetson Bennett found receiver Arian Smith on a 52-yard pass to get Georgia into Tennessee territory. On third down at the Vols' 13-yard line, Bennett showed his mobility on a scramble and pylon dive for the score.
Georgia leads 7-3 after the extra point.
STETSON. UNREAL.— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 5, 2022
What a run to find the end zone. pic.twitter.com/4t2wxaAGc1
Vols capitalize on Bulldogs' turnover
Bulldogs running back Daijun Edwards fumbled on the opening drive, which led to a field goal for the Volunteers. Tennessee leads 3-0.
HOT POTATO!— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 5, 2022
The Vols come up with a big early fumble recovery. pic.twitter.com/ludRqQMXMG
That was a pretty good stand by Georgia's defense after Edwards coughed up a fumble on the opening possession. The Volunteers took over at the UGA 47, but the Bulldogs forced a long field goal from McGrath. The crowd noise was a factor early; the Volunteers had two false starts on their first possession. -- Schlabach
Updates from Sanford
As expected, Georgia receiver Adonai Mitchell won't play against the Volunteers. He wasn't in uniform for warm-ups. Mitchell, a sophomore from Missouri City, Texas, has been sidelined with an ankle injury and hasn't played since Georgia's 33-0 shutout of Samford on Sept. 10. He had five catches for 69 yards with one score in a 49-3 rout of Oregon in the opener. He is one of Georgia's best deep threats, and quarterback Stetson Bennett could have used him against Tennessee's shaky secondary. -- Schlabach
What should you know about the Vols?
Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said the Vols should be as healthy as they've been all season.
Cedric Tillman, who led Tennessee in receiving last season, figures to provide a boost to an already potent receiving corps. He played limited snaps last week against Kentucky, and Heupel said they had him on a "pitch count" after missing the previous four games.
Heupel said Tillman will be "ready to roll" against the Bulldogs. The 6-foot-3 Tillman creates serious matchup problems with his size and athleticism, particularly with speedy Jalin Hyatt and his 14 touchdowns on the other side.
Tillman has been practicing full speed, but the Vols wanted to make sure he was 100 percent before bringing him back for a game. Tillman had tightrope surgery to repair a high ankle sprain in September. -- Low
How about them Dawgs?
There's no question that Georgia's defense will miss senior outside linebacker Nolan Smith, who led the Bulldogs in sacks, tackles for loss and quarterback hurries. He's a versatile defender who Georgia moved around a lot, and he's one of the team's most experienced players.
But the Bulldogs were going to struggle to get pressure on Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker regardless. Hooker gets rid of the ball quickly in Tennessee's fast-paced offense. He has tremendous eye discipline and doesn't make many mistakes, which is why he has only one interception this season.
Georgia's cornerbacks -- Kelee Ringo and Kamari Lassiter -- are going to have to play well on the perimeter to slow the Vols. They'll face a monumental challenge in trying to contain UT receivers Tillman, Bru McCoy and Hyatt.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart said the Bulldogs are going to have to adjust to UT's pace on the fly and do it well.
"They got multiple paces they use and they can go as fast as anybody in the country. They practice it, they preach it, they do a really good job researching themselves and figuring out how they can go faster. And our job is to be able to match that conditioning level." -- Schlabach
It's on in Athens
What might be the biggest game in Sanford Stadium history is still hours away, but thousands of fans have flocked to Athens from every direction.
Former Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning is here. So is former Georgia defensive back and NFL Hall of Famer Champ Bailey. Country music star Luke Bryan arrived for "College GameDay" via private jet. PGA Tour golfers Kevin Kisner, a Georgia alum, and past U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland were expected to arrive from Justin Thomas' wedding in Nashville sometime Saturday morning.
The Bulldogs have hosted plenty of big games at Sanford Stadium during the past 93 years, but perhaps none bigger than this one, which will probably decide the SEC East title and who will play in the SEC championship game. The winner will also have an inside track to the College Football Playoff, while the loser will need help from other teams to get into the top four.
It's the first top-five matchup at Sanford Stadium since 1983, when Bo Jackson and No. 3 Auburn ended No. 4 Georgia's 23-game SEC winning streak with a 13-7 victory between the hedges.
"It's a big game, right?" Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. "There's nothing about a number being in front of it. It would be a big game regardless because both teams are in the East." -- Schlabach