The Georgia Bulldogs return home this week to face the 2-4 Vanderbilt Commodores. Since 1990, Vanderbilt has been the Homecoming game for Georgia every even year except 2012 (Ole Miss). Twice during that span the Commodores have spoiled Homecoming with upset wins in 1994 43-30 and 2006 24-22. The game ten years ago came down to a go ahead Field Goal as time expired for a Vandy win after UGA’s Tony Taylor had the go ahead pick six earlier in the fourth quarter to make the score 22-21.
A more recent recap of the series shows that Georgia has won the last 2 meetings, 31-14 last year, and 44-17 in 2014 here in Athens. The 2013 matchup would be voted as the most interesting game in the last 5 years when Georgia led 27-14 only to lose 31-27. Many UGA fans will argue how targeting lost them the game that day in Nashville. It was the first year of the rule and back then even if the targeting penalty was taken away, the offense still received an automatic first down. With the Dawgs up 27-24, Vandy faced a 4th down late in the game. QB Paton Robinette threw a pass over the middle and UGA Linebacker Ramik Wilson struck the receiver to knock the ball loose. Georgia was celebrating a turnover on downs and a close fought win on the road, however Wilson was flagged for targeting the receiver. The replay officials overturned the targeting call but Vandy was still awarded a 15 yard penalty and first and goal. Needless to say the Commodores scored a Touchdown to win the game 31-27, another “how did we lose this game?” question in 2013 (at Clemson, at Auburn, and vs Nebraska in Bowl Game also fit that category in 2013.)
For Derek Mason’s squad to upset UGA on Homecoming like it did ten years ago, they will have to excel in the 3 keys to the game. One, Vandy Linebacker Zach Cunningham will have to stuff the Georgia running game. Zach lead the Dores in tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks last year as a sophomore. Last week UGA’s offensive line was able to get to the second level of blocking USC’s linebackers which is why the Dawgs had over 300 yards rushing. For Vandy to not let this happen again, Cunningham is going to have to lead the Vandy Defense or Chubb may run for more than his 189 yards in last year’s game. Second, QB Kyle Shurmur needs to connect on deep ball opportunities to avoid Georgia stacking the box against tailback Ralph Webb. Shurmur has connected with freshman receiver Kalijia Lipscomb for two of his three touchdown passes so far this season. Lipscomb will have the opportunity to get passed UGA’s corners who have let receivers get behind them in every single game. Finally, Vanderbilt will need to have a trick play up their sleeve for momentum’s sake. Maybe a fake punt or onside kick to sway the momentum from the home team, because if not it could get ugly. UGA may only be a 13 ½ point favorite in Vegas, but the talent gap between the two teams is large.
I expect Georgia to follow the same game plan as last week, run the ball and make the opposing average quarterback hurt you. Georgia is at home and desperately wants to get above .500 in conference play, which is why I see UGA winning 35-10. Though, you always have to be aware of noon kickoffs at home with the crowd piling in late and the team coming out not energetic. Just say the words “Nicholls State”
God Bless and Go Dawgs!