Believe it or not, under Richt, Georgia hasn’t always struggled at Vanderbilt. It’s been more of a recent development, although Joe Cox managed to lead the Dawgs to a 24-point win in 2009.
But today Nashville does have the feel of a place where Georgia plays down to its opponent’s level. And even with what’s happened in the last couple of weeks, down is still the operative word. On defense this season, the two teams are fairly even, but Georgia has had the more productive offense. Surprisingly, there isn’t that much difference in production on special teams, either… um, except for this and this. Both teams are lousy on the turnover margin front.
So Georgia’s biggest advantage is reduced by injuries, the bulk of the rest of what’s there is mediocre and Vanderbilt’s playing at home, where it’s already lost twice to SEC teams. Bottom line, it’s a game Georgia shouldn’t lose, unless it’s feeling generous again. Which is certainly a possibility.
So what to look for today? Vanderbilt can’t run the football and stopping the run is one thing Georgia’s defense has been competent at this season. I’d expect the Commodores to throw the ball and attack the perimeter. I’d look for them to be very aggressive early, because they’ve been a poor offensive team in the first quarter so far this year.
I don’t think the two keys for the Dawgs are any big surprise. First, can they avoid the stupid mistakes that have plagued them in almost every game we’ve seen? Giving Vanderbilt momentum and points off turnovers and special teams screw ups is a good way to walk out of there with a loss. Second key will be whether the offensive line decides to show up. I expect Vanderbilt to go all out, blitzing and loading the box to jam the offensive linemen and disrupt Murray’s mechanics. If Georgia can establish the run game, that will go a long way towards settling things in its direction, both because it will make Murray’s job easier and because it will help keep Georgia’s secondary off the field.
No magic. No hidden tricks. Georgia just needs to execute. It’s the better team, even with the injuries. There’s a ten-point win to be had if the Dawgs play under control.