Although the SEC is doing away with divisions in 2024 once Oklahoma and Texas join the conference, the Georgia Bulldogs and the Tennessee Volunteers have played each other annually every season since 1992. While the Dawgs and Vols did not have a ton of history prior to the league going to two, six-team divisions with Arkansas and South Carolina joining the conference, this is still a major rivalry.
Tennessee dominated the rivalry in the 1990s when Phillip Fulmer was at the peak of its powers and the Dawgs struggled to find their footing in between the Vince Dooley and Mark Richt eras. While the 2000s was fairly evenly contested, Georgia dominated the rivalry for much of the 2010s, and all of the 2020s up to this point. However, there was one period of transition where Tennessee took advantage.
The last time the Vols got the best of the Dawgs, Josh Dobbs was Tennessee's star quarterback and the cliche machine better known as Butch Jones was leading Rocky Top. This victory came in 2016 in Athens. It was Kirby Smart's first year leading his alma mater. Left with mostly Richt's players, the Dawgs gave up a Hail Mary touchdown pass from Dobbs to Jauan Jennings to win in Athens, 34-31.
Ever since letting Jones sob on the field like a complete buffoon, Smart has not lost to Tennessee since. The Dawgs have won their last six meetings over Rocky Top dating back to 2017. Georgia has regularly scored around 40 points in most of those games, whereas Tennessee has struggled to get to 20. With a College Football Playoff trip on the line for Georgia, Tennessee looks to play spoiler here.
With the SEC going away with divisions, this annual rivalry will unfortunately be going to the wayside.
When was the last time Tennessee beat Georgia in college football?
The evolution, and devolution to some degree, of both teams in the SEC East rivalry over the last 15 years has been utterly fascinating. It went from an annual rivalry that was totally up for grabs in the 2000s to one where the better coach at the time pretty much always wins. Tennessee has only won three games since firing Fulmer. 2009 with Lane Kiffin, and in 2015 and 2016 with Jones at the helm.
What the last seven or eight years of the rivalry have showed us is that it got bad fast under Mark Richt, which honestly covered up some of the stank Jones had in Knoxville during his good, but not great tenure there. Georgia has been a different program since year two under Smart in 2017. The Dawgs rarely lose conference games now, but they fell to the likes of Tennessee and Vandy in 2016.
Although we should like the most recent Tennessee hire of Josh Heupel at head coach, as he is a vast improvement over his predecessor Jeremy Pruitt, Heupel has been unable to close the gap on the Dawgs in his first two meetings. Eventually, Tennessee will get the best of Georgia because the Vols are a blue-blood program and that is what blue-blood programs do. It may take a while if it is not now.
Georgia at Tennessee has long been circled as the hardest game on the Dawgs' weak 2023 schedule.