ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Stetson Bennett threw two touchdown passes and ran for a score and No. 1 Georgia shut down No. 2 Tennessee’s high-powered offense, dominating the Volunteers 27-13 on Saturday in an SEC showdown of the nation’s top-ranked teams.
Georgia (9-0, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) turned the 25th regular-season matchup of the top two teams in the AP poll into rout that made clear the defending national champions are still the team to beat.
In a deafening and soggy Sanford Stadium, Georgia led 27-6 before Tennessee scored its first touchdown with 4:15 remaining.
Hendon Hooker, who entered as the Heisman Trophy frontrunner after taking down Alabama last month, passed for only 195 yards for Tennessee (8-1, 4-1) and was sacked six times by star defensive tackle Jalen Carter and the Bulldogs’ defense.
Hooker threw an interception, lost a fumble that nearly resulted in a safety for Georgia and didn’t throw a touchdown pass.
Tennessee’s final possession ended with Hooker dropped for no gain on a fourth-down run with less than 3 minutes remaining. The Volunteers came in averaging almost 50 points per game.
The Volunteers road that Alabama victory to the top spot in the first College Football Playoff ranking. Georgia was No. 3 in those.
That will change Tuesday. The Bulldogs also took control of the SEC’s East Division in the race. They should cruise to another conference championship game.
Hooker and his potent top receivers, Hyatt and Cedric Tillman, were contained by Georgia. The Vols were held to two first-half field goals as Georgia took a 24-6 halftime lead. Rain in the second half made it only more difficult to move against the Bulldogs’ defense.
Bennett threw scoring passes of 37 yards to Ladd McConkey and 5 yards to Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint in the first half. Bennett also had a 13-yard scoring run.
There were more big plays in Georgia’s passing game. Bennett had completions of 52 yards to Arian Smith and 49 yards to running back Kenny McIntosh.
Tennessee: The Vols struggled in the big-game atmosphere, especially on offense where crowd noise contributed to a series of false starts and illegal procedure calls.
Tennessee’s playoff hopes are far from gone, but the Vols are now going to need some help..
Georgia: With all the focus on Tennessee’s Hooker, Bennett again showed he can step up in a game with major implications.
He was named offensive MVP in both playoff wins last season and excelled again against the Vols, including on his touchdown run when he escaped pressure near the 25 before running to his right and diving for the score.
Bennett passed for 257 yards, completing 17 of 25 passes.
After losing outside linebacker Nolan Smith, Georgia’s leader with three sacks, to a season-ending injury last week, his replacement, Robert Beal, left game in third quarter with a neck injury. Chaz Chambliss took over for Beal. … Tennessee RB Jabari Small was taken to the medical tent in the first quarter with a shoulder injury. Wright took over as the lead running back. … Hyatt returned after suffering an apparent ankle injury when he collided with a field judge on an incomplete pass.
Tennessee returns home to play Missouri on Saturday. The Vols have won the last three games in the series, including a 62-24 win at Missouri in 2021.
Georgia begins a stretch of back-to-back SEC road games when it plays at Mississippi State on Saturday night. Georgia has won the last three games in the series.