Tennessee and Georgia Tech will meet in brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta for Monday’s season opener, but who will line up at quarterback for both teams remains unknown - at least publicly. Tennessee coach Butch Jones and Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson have not announced who will start under center, as the No. 24 Volunteers and Georgia Tech begin their campaigns looking to replace long-time starting quarterbacks.
The Volunteers have junior Quinten Dormady, a backup the last two years, and redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano battling to replace Joshua Dobbs. “We have a pretty good idea who the quarterback will be for us, and we have a pretty good idea who the quarterback will be for them as well,” Jones told reporters this week. The Yellow Jackets most likely will go with junior Matthew Jordan, who played at times while former starter Justin Thomas was injured last season, but could go with junior TaQuon Marshall or a pair of redshirt freshmen. “We may play all four in the first game,” Johnson told reporters. “Who knows?”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Tennessee -3
ABOUT TENNESSEE (2016: 9-4): The Volunteers look to replace most of their offensive firepower from last season, but return running back John Kelly (630 yards rushing in 2016) and receiver Jauan Jennings (seven receiving touchdowns). Dormady played in four games last season, completing 11-of-17 passes for 148 yards. Defensively, Tennessee brings back its top four linebackers from a season ago and an experienced secondary.
ABOUT GEORGIA TECH (2016: 9-4): The Yellow Jackets will deploy the triple-option offense, but lost leading rusher Dedrick Mills after he was dismissed from the program in August for violating team rules. Jordan directed an upset at Virginia Tech last season and rushed for six touchdowns in nine games, attempting just nine passes on the season, but does have experienced running backs in Clinton Lynch (905 all-purpose yards) and J.J Green. Georgia Tech brings back five defensive backs who combined for eight interceptions a season ago.
1. The Volunteers have won nine games and finished in the top 25 in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2006 and 2007.
2. Georgia Tech closed last season with four wins in a row, and is 5-1 in its past six games against SEC competition.
3. Both schools were original members of the SEC, but have not played since 1987.
PREDICTION: Tennessee 21, Georgia Tech 17