As the 2014 season has shown, anything is possible. It has been a bumpy road as to who was going to be the SEC East favorite with every team having at least one major upset. However, after their win over Tennessee, Georgia seems to be back in the driver seat.
(13) Georgia is 3-1 this season with their only loss coming at South Carolina. Vanderbilt is 1-3 with their only win coming against an average Massachusetts team. Although the unranked Commodores have struggled this season and have yet to bounce back to the James Franklin era, they still showed that they could put up a fight. Last week against South Carolina, the Commodores almost proved themselves, giving the Gamecocks a run for their money up until the fourth quarter.
Last year, Vanderbilt stunned Georgia with an upset in a 31-27 victory, and like I said, anything is possible this season, even another upset. So what does each team need in order to come out on top?
Both teams are strongest in their running game, and that is where this game will be won or lost
Vanderbilt running back, Ralph Webb, is the only consist player for the Commodore offense. He has accounted for 422 yards and one touchdown on 77 attempts. Vanderbilt has gone through four quarterbacks the past four games and has played nearly every player on the roster trying to find their niche. Because Vanderbilt is going to rely on Webb heavily, it is important for Georgia defense to play deep in the trenches and stop the run game.
The same goes for Georgia. Obviously Heisman Hopeful, Todd Gurley, is going to get his yards. Georgia has been, is, and will be dependent on him all season. Last game against Tennessee, Gurley broke his personal record, and rushed for a total of 208 yards; along with four catches for 30 yards.
Luckily for Georgia, the formerly injured Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley are expected to play this Saturday.
However, the ‘Dores are aware of these deficiencies and Georgia can’t depend on Gurley this entire game. Georgia’s passing game still has a lot of improving to do and has struggled this season. Quarterback Hutson Mason did throw his first two interceptions of the season last game against Tennessee. Coach Richt did comment that, “anything is possible,” in terms of distributing playing time under center. Meaning, redshirt freshman Brice Ramsey, who seems to be the next guy in line, may begin to see the field some more.
If Vanderbilt is smart, they will stack the box – maybe even pull a safety up close– to put pressure on Mason and force him to throw the ball under pressure. New head coach Derek Mason seems to be meshing with his defense more so than his offense. Nigel Bowden, Caleb Azubike, and Darrius Sims have kept this team afloat, unfortunately seeing almost too much play time due tot their clumsy offense. Sims accounted for 419 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns, the most of any player on the Vanderbilt roster; two of them coming off returns. The Commodores are fourth in the league with twelve sacks. Pair that with three defensive touchdowns, and it’s clear the Vanderbilt defense is no joke.
In Georgia’s last game against Tennessee, they gave up too many turnovers. It is crucial for the Commodores to force the Dawgs to three-and-outs early in the game. For the Dawgs, it is also crucial to cut down on the penalties. Penalties killed UGA last week in the Tennessee game.
Georgia is clearly the stronger and faster team, but it is important for them to be consistent. A healthy dose of Todd Gurley, pressure on whichever QB the ‘Dores have playing, and the electric energy in Sanford Stadium is recipe for a Bulldawg victory. However, if the Commodores can get in there, make a few plays to slow down the rushing attack, and cut down on turnovers, then they have a shot too.
Date: Saturday, October, 4, 2014
When: 4:00 pm EST on SEC Network
Where: Sanford Stadium – Athens, Georgia
*Section Photo credit to Christopher Hanewinckel, USA Today Sports; Featured Photo (above) credit to Radi Nabulsi, ESPN.com