Vols vs. Dawgs is matchup No. 31

With just 12 games on the schedule, every game is important in college football. Still, some outings tend to be crucial because they historically propel the winner to a big year and doom the loser to a lesser year.

Tennessee vs. Georgia is just such a game. Consider what happened in 2005 and 2006:

In 2005 a 4-0 Georgia team ranked No. 5 nationally visited a 4-1 Tennessee team ranked No. 8 nationally. Georgia prevailed 27-14 and went on to win the SEC title. Tennessee dropped four of its five remaining games and finished 5-6.

In 2006 a 4-1 Tennessee team ranked No. 13 nationally visited a 5-0 Georgia team ranked No. 14 nationally. Tennessee rallied from a 17-point deficit to romp 51-33. The Vols then moved to 7-1 by beating Alabama and South Carolina, while Georgia dropped three of its next four games.

Given this little history lesson, it shouldn't be too surprising that Pete Fiutak of collegefootballnews.com ranks this year's Vol-Bulldog battle No. 31 on a preseason post he calls "Early Predictions of the Top 50 Games."

Here's what Pete has to say:

31. Georgia at Tennessee, Oct. 6

This showdown is always one of the key pieces to the SEC puzzle. By this point in the year, Georgia will have faced South Carolina and Alabama, while Tennessee will have traveled to Florida. If the Volunteers pull off the win in The Swamp, and considering the toughest conference road game left will be at Alabama, this might effectively cinch the SEC East championship. The two teams are eerily similar in strengths and weaknesses with good backfields, shaky secondaries, and questionable receiving corps. Last year, Tennessee won by blowing the doors off the Dawgs 51-33 with a strange second half run. Now it'll be Georgia's turn to return the favor. The road team has won four straight in the series. Make it six, with Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford outplaying Tennessee's Erik Ainge, and the Dawg secondary and receiving corps to show by early October that they're just ahead of Tennessee's.

Predicted score in July: Georgia 31 ... Tennessee 17

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