Could there be a more obvious Musical Palate Cleanser for this post than this?
Coaches gonna coach. Players gonna play. So let’s put our version of the rematch to the side for now and commence firing random bullet points.
- Okay, first the obvious: the defense isn’t going to have a problem with focus Saturday night. The worry is the opposite, that it comes out overly amped and struggles with gap assignments and overrunning plays that the Commodores’ offense successfully exploits.
- Speaking of those gap assignments and other blown matters, Georgia’s defense has given up eight big plays in its first three games. Here’s how that breaks down: those eight plays have yielded 333 yards, or 41.6 yards a play; the other 213 plays run so far against Georgia’s defense have averaged 3.3 yards.
- While we’re talking about coming out overly amped, here’s looking at you, Aaron Murray.
- I like Vandy’s defensive coordinator, Bob Shoop. It’s early, but he’s coaching the 11th best defense in the country. And it’s third nationally against the pass. You can tell his unit is well coached. It plays hard and is fundamentally sound. But it’s still Vanderbilt, which means the line is undersized and overall depth is an issue. Vanderbilt had fourth quarter leads in both of its losses this year.
- That being said, Georgia is by far the best offensive team the ‘Dores have played this year. The Dawgs’ #20 ranking in total offense is a good bit higher than South Carolina’s #47 and Northwestern’s #63.
- Both teams want to establish the run, and for the same reason – to draw one of the safeties out of pass coverage and into run support. Which team is likely to have more success doing so?
- Vanderbilt’s other problem with its offensive game plan is that it has two good receivers in Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd, but little behind them. The two have combined for 29 of Vandy’s 43 receptions so far. So even if Grantham feels the need to cheat a little with safety run support, he’s still got a better chance to cover the receiving options with the secondary than Shoop does (especially if Georgia can run the ball out of one-back, four-receiver sets).
- With all the extra-curricular distractions in last year’s game, it’s easy to forget that Georgia had built a 16-point lead in the third quarter and appeared to have the game under control. Things unraveled because of 2011’s big bugaboo, bad special teams play. The ‘Dores had a 96-yard kickoff return for a score, blocked that late punt and survived two missed field goal attempts. If there’s one area that’s a cause for concern tomorrow, it’s Georgia’s punt return game, which hasn’t done much and saw a couple of muffs last week against FAU.
- The other development that swung the direction of last year’s game was the insertion of Jordan Rodgers into the game at quarterback. He didn’t throw the ball all that well (4-19, 31.3 passer rating), but he surprised the Dawgs by running the ball effectively (11 rushes for 80 yards). That seemed to open up Vanderbilt’s offense. Zac Stacy ran for almost 100 yards and Franklin made up for some of Rodgers’ lack of production in the passing game by pulling off a couple of trick plays, one of which went for a 45-yard TD. I don’t expect Grantham to be asleep at the switch this year, no matter who starts at quarterback for Franklin. (And remember that Missouri’s James Franklin had a poor day running the football against a Georgia D that was clearly prepared for him.)
- One other Vandy coach who impresses me is the guy who coaches the offensive line, Herb Hand. He’s earned a spot in the GTP Hall of Fame for this quote, but he also happens to be good at his job. His problem is that he doesn’t have that much to work with. The Vanderbilt offensive line, as you might expect, isn’t particularly big by SEC standards. And it’s had its struggles, no doubt. That line yielded five sacks against South Carolina. Vandy only rushed for 62 yards in that game.
Bottom line here is that I think Georgia shuts down Vandy’s running game and Vanderbilt can’t do the opposite. The Dawgs had best be prepared to see a heavy dose of the dink and dunk passing game with an occasional trick play tossed in to see if they’re staying awake and aware. The line is somewhere in the neighborhood of two touchdowns and that strikes me as reasonable. Stay away from mistakes, grind the Commodores down and grab that second divisional win.
Oh, and don’t forget to shake hands after the game, fellas.