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Crimson Tide photos / Tennessee safety Theo Jackson, center, and linebacker Quavaris Crouch give chase last October as Alabama's Brian Robinson scores a touchdown in the Crimson Tide's 35-13 victory. The defeat marked the 33rd in a row for the Volunteers against a top-10 team.

George W. Bush was president, "The Departed" was the nation's highest-grossing film, and the iPhone had yet to be released the last time the Tennessee Volunteers triumphed against an Associated Press top-10 football foe.

On Oct. 7, 2006, Phillip Fulmer's 13th-ranked Vols traveled to Georgia and spotted Mark Richt's 10th-ranked Bulldogs a 24-7 lead before surging back for a 51-33 win. Since then, there have been 33 consecutive losses to top-10 teams, a tortuous skid that was extended last season with defeats against No. 9 Florida, No. 3 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama by the average score of 37-10.

Tennessee was unranked and often hapless in 29 of those 33 setbacks, but Jeremy Pruitt's Vols are No. 14 entering Saturday afternoon's CBS-televised showdown against Kirby Smart's No. 3 Bulldogs inside Sanford Stadium. Pruitt helped contribute to Tennessee's streak as Alabama's defensive backs coach (2010-12) and defensive coordinator (2016-17), and he isn't nearly as concerned about past Vols woes as he is about Saturday's opponent.

"I think Georgia is one of the better teams I've seen in college football over the last couple of years," Pruitt said this week. "These guys have a lot of team speed, and they're big. They're physical at the line of scrimmage and have good running backs. On the defensive side, they create a lot of negative plays. On special teams, because of their athleticism, they've got good returners.

"They don't have a weakness."

Georgia led the nation last season in fewest points allowed, and this year's Bulldogs defense has gone 23 consecutive possessions without allowing a touchdown. When told of Pruitt's comment about Georgia not having a weakness, Vols sophomore linebacker Henry To'o To'o said, "Coach Pruitt hit it right on the spot."

Of course, losing 33 straight games to top-10 teams reflects quite the challenging schedules. Tennessee has played seven national champions during this stretch — LSU in 2007, Florida in 2008, and Alabama in 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2017 — and five teams that finished runner-up nationally — LSU in 2011, Auburn in 2013, Alabama in 2016 and 2018, and Georgia in 2017.

Tennessee also faced the likes of Oregon and Oklahoma outside the league. The Vols do have wins in the past decade over teams ranked just outside the top 10, upsetting No. 11 South Carolina in 2013 and whipping No. 12 Kentucky two years ago.

There is the potential of rain and perhaps significant rain for this Tennessee-Georgia game, with both Pruitt and Smart implementing wet ball drills this week.

"If it rains Saturday, it will be wet on both sides," Pruitt said. "We'll just go play ball."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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University of Georgia photo / Tennessee third-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt was Georgia's defensive coordinator during the 2014-15 seasons before spending the 2016-17 seasons in the same role at Alabama.

TOP-10 WOES

Tennessee has lost 33 consecutive football games against top-10 teams since a 51-33 win at Georgia in 2006, which is the longest such streak nationally. The No. 14 Volunteers visit the No. 3 Bulldogs on Saturday. A look back at the rough run of defeats:

2007

No. 5 Florida, 59-20

No. 5 LSU, 21-14 (SEC title game)

2008

No. 4 Florida, 30-6

No. 10 Georgia, 26-14

No. 2 Alabama, 29-9

2009

No. 1 Florida, 23-13

No. 1 Alabama, 12-10

2010

No. 7 Oregon, 48-13

No. 10 Florida, 31-17

No. 7 Alabama, 41-10

2011

No. 1 LSU, 38-7

No. 2 Alabama, 37-6

No. 8 Arkansas, 49-7

2012

No. 5 Georgia, 51-44

No. 1 Alabama, 44-13

2013

No. 2 Oregon, 59-14

No. 6 Georgia, 34-31 (OT)

No. 1 Alabama, 45-10

No. 10 Missouri, 31-3

No. 7 Auburn, 55-23

2014

No. 4 Oklahoma, 34-10

No. 3 Ole Miss, 34-3

No. 4 Alabama, 34-20

2015

No. 8 Alabama, 19-14

2016

No. 8 Texas A&M, 45-38 (2OT)

No. 1 Alabama, 49-10

2017

No. 7 Georgia, 41-0

No. 1 Alabama, 45-7

2018

No. 2 Georgia, 38-12

No. 1 Alabama, 58-21

2019

No. 9 Florida, 34-3

No. 3 Georgia, 43-14

No. 1 Alabama, 35-13

 

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