Coaches and players from both proud programs admit that Tennessee and Georgia both are desperate to leave Sanford Stadium today with a victory.
For first-year UT coach Derek Dooley, today could be an important win where his father Vince had so many.
And for Georgia coach Mark Richt, today very well could be a must-win.
At any rate, today is surprisingly big despite both programs entering their meeting with losing records for the first time since 1906.
“We have two teams in very similar situations,” Richt said earlier this week. “Both are coming off heartbreaking losses. Both of them are looking for a Southeastern Conference victory. Both of them are teams that have tremendous fan bases and tremendous tradition and history of playing winning football.
“So we are both, I would say, pretty desperate for a victory right now.”
Buy only one team can get one. The other faces the very real possibility of a bowl-less season.
That never sits well in Tennessee (2-3, 0-2) or Georgia (1-4, 0-3). But at least Dooley can point to this being his first year in charge.
“I would think it’s going to be a highly emotional game, a highly charged game, with two teams really fighting like mad for a victory and fighting like mad for the ability to show people that we can play football,” Richt said. “It ought to be a good one. Tennessee-Georgia — enough said, I guess.”
Both teams came close to changing fortunes last week, but both flew home frustrated.
Dooley’s Volunteers appeared to beat LSU but ultimately lost when the Tigers were given another chance to score from the 1-yard line after a too-many-men-on-the-field penalty. The Bulldogs, seemingly boosted by the return of star wide receiver A.J. Green, fumbled away a late chance to overtake Colorado.
UT senior defensive end Chris Walker said it’s “really crazy” that both the Vols and Bulldogs have losing records in October.
“But it also shows the level of competition that we play every week,” Walker added. “I think that everybody knows that in college football, you’ve got to be ready to play every week. There’s some weeks where we’ve come in and we haven’t been ready and they haven’t been ready. And it’s showed.
“I think both of us are teams that are looking for a breakthrough in our season, and I think this game is a really pivotal breakthrough for both two teams.”
Vols senior middle linebacker Nick Reveiz went even further.
“I feel like this week is kind of a turning point for us. Where that turning point goes, I don’t know yet,” said Reveiz, the SEC’s leading tackler. “That’s going to be determined Saturday. I feel like we showed a lot of good things [at LSU], and it just hurts so bad. You really don’t know how to describe it any other way; you really can’t take positive out of it because it hurts so bad. As a player, your heart, emotionally and physically, you can’t describe it.
“This game versus Georgia is going to be a huge game, and, again, I’ll let you know more Saturday where it’s headed.”
It’s headed one of two ways, obviously.
“You know they’re as ready to move on as we are,” UT sophomore cornerback Marsalis Teague said. “I’d say we’re both ready to get back out there on the field and make a statement.”
Georgia sophomore tight end Orson Charles rather boldly agreed.
“We’re [ticked] off,” Charles told the Macon Telegraph. “That’s our thing right now. We’re [ticked] off right now. We’re 1-4. We’ve got a lot of fans saying this, a lot of fans saying that. And I mean, we just want to make everybody happy. We want to be happy.
“We’re tired of walking around the locker room quiet, coaches yelling at us all the time for no reason, because we’re losing. So we’re just going out there and to get our respect back. We’re [ticked] off right now.
“I’m speaking for everyone at Georgia.”