When we last saw the Georgia Bulldogs in action, things didn’t go as planned against Missouri last week. However, the season is far from over (despite contrary reports), and the Dawgs are headed to Nashville for what is always an interesting road test with Vanderbilt. Let’s get to the particulars.
Opponent: Vanderbilt Commodores (3-3, 0-3 in SEC)
Time/TV: Noon, CBS
Georgia Offense vs. Vanderbilt Defense
First things first, the status of all-World running back Todd Gurley is still very much in the air. Early in the week, Mark Richt and company were sounding more and more positive about Gurley’s prospects to suit up here, but on Thursday, he dropped a ”we’re preparing to play without him” quote, and that brought expectations down. In the absence of Keith Marshall, JJ Green and Brendan Douglas certainly weren’t the problem in last week’s loss, but they also don’t resemble the explosiveness of Gurley.
On the bright side, UGA still has Aaron Murray under center, and he has hardly missed a beat despite being without multiple weapons. Chris Conley and Rantavious Wooten have emerged as legitimate targets, and even on a day where Murray wasn’t at his best, he was more than passable against Mizzou. Now, he’ll face a semi-stingy Vanderbilt defense, but the Commodores are only slightly better than average nationally in pass defense (allowing over 220 yards per game). I’d expect Murray to have a nice day despite the road conditions, and he’s the least of the team’s worries.
One thing to note is that Vandy is considerably worse in run defense than in pass, which could put the emphasis back on the young running back duo. For me, JJ Green has been tremendous, and if he’s given 20 touches here, I’d expect 100+ yards and a score. Either way, the Vandy defense, though solid, shouldn’t present a terrible issue.
Georgia Defense vs. Vanderbilt Offense
As usual, this side of the ball is much more worrisome. Vanderbilt is averaging over 33 points per game this season, and they have a strong quarterback in Austyn Carta-Samuels. The senior from San Jose, California has over 1,500 yards passing in 6 games for the ‘Dores, and he has a tremendous wide receiver target in Jordan Matthews.
Matthews is the real deal, and he’s shown that by averaging nearly 120 yards per game receiving with 5 touchdowns in 6 games. He should be the #1 focus for Todd Grantham and company, but frankly, I have no confidence in that unit to shut down a particular entity at this stage. Fortunately, the ‘Dores are far less impressive on the ground (80th nationally in rushing yardage), so Georgia should be able to deploy nickel and dime packages in an effort to slow Carta-Samuels and company.
I’m hearing a lot of “it’s just Vanderbilt” sentiment in the Bulldog community this week, and that worries me a bit. Georgia has had some serious issues in Nashville at times in recent years, and despite the 3-3 mark, Vandy has more talent than they typically do on both sides of the ball. In addition, the battered roster that Mark Richt and company are trotting out leaves the talent level a lot closer than you would think, and Vanderbilt is certainly capable of handing the Bulldogs a loss that would, for all intensive purposes, end the possibility of achieving a single preseason goal. I like Georgia in the game, but it should be tough for any Bulldog fan to get comfortable right now.
Stay tuned for post-game coverage, and a live game thread that will open on Saturday morning. Check it out!