I’m seeing the various keys to the game pieces that come out this time of the week, and they’re about what you’d expect: Mason can coach a little defense, Vandy’s defensive front seven is SEC-level competent, Ralph Webb is a tough running back, etc. The cautious part of the punditry is warning that may be good enough for Vanderbilt to hang with Georgia for a while and for the Commodore’s to cover what is an admittedly sizeable spread for a SEC playing at home.
Okay, fine. Here’s the other part of the equation. Vanderbilt’s passing game is nothing to write home about and its red zone offense was truly awful against a Western Kentucky defense that, by the way, gave up almost 200 more yards last night against Louisiana Tech.
Is Vanderbilt better than it was last year? Sure, but that’s a pretty low bar you’re setting with that question.
The problem I see in calling this as a close game is that even if you believe Mason’s defense can slow Georgia’s rushing attack down for a while (and remember how many consecutive games Nick Chubb has managed to gain 100+ yards as you ponder that) and Webb is able to find some running room of his own, that still leaves a pretty large imbalance when it comes to passing.
And I haven’t even mentioned special teams, where Georgia’s depth gives it the advantage. So why give the cautious credence here? His-toe-ree.
Yes, the 2013 game was one of those games. You know the kind of game I’m talking about. But even that took Vanderbilt’s best team of, what, the last quarter century at least, until the end to get the win against a Georgia team missing almost every starting skill position player on offense that had to deal with two questionable penalties that clearly affected the game.
Lost in all that is the real cause behind the Dawgs blowing a 13-point fourth quarter lead, one of the most spectacular special teams meltdowns of the Richt era. First came Damian Swann’s fumbled punt return, which led to the first Vandy score. Then came the sphincter-tightening bad snap that Barber could only helplessly corral at the Georgia 13 that quickly led to another score. And it all unraveled from there.
So if you want my main key for tomorrow, it’s quite simple. Follow Hippocrates’ lead: First Do No Harm. No stupid turnovers. No questionable calls. Competent special teams.
If this team is truly ready to take the next step and perform as an élite team, it’s in games like this where it needs to start. We all know what Georgia is capable of when things are clicking against a good team. It’s time to show us that games like tomorrow’s can be drama free.