The Vanderbilt Commodores (2-3 SEC) come into Athens on Saturday to take on the Georgia Bulldogs (1-3 SEC, 2-4). In usually what is a Homecoming cupcake for UGA, this contest includes a team disappointed with where its season has gone…and it ain’t Vandy. Even coming off a 41-14 beat down of Tennessee last week; we still don’t really know how much fight the Dawgs have in them. It’s the half-way point of the season and Head Coach Mark Richt can’t be sure of what team will come out of the tunnel. Vandy enters the game coming off a momentum gaining 52-6 win against winless Eastern Michigan.
Things to watch for this Homecoming week in Athens ‘tween the hedges:
Vandy O vs. Dawgs D Edge: UGA
Last week Vanderbilt put on a show last week piling up an impressive 558 yards of total offense. The offense is led by QB Larry Smith who threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran one TD. Their Rushing Offense ranks #7 SEC and averages 171 yards per game while their Passing Offense ranks near the bottom at #11 SEC producing 179 yards per game. Meanwhile the Junk Yard Dawgs D is ranked dead last in SEC Passing Efficiency defense. Good thing for the Bulldogs that Vandy is so poor passing the ball; although UGA’s secondary has a habit of making opposing QB’s look like Heisman Trophy candidates. The Dawgs Rushing Defense is mid-pack in the SEC at 111 yards per game. A good day by the D line will let the LB’s do their thing and disrupt Vandy’s tempo. The key is the Bulldogs have to tackle better. Too many missed arm tackles or tackles that just plain miss. The D looked much sharper vs. Tennessee last week. Let’s hope they can continue to learn and develop.
Georgia O vs. Vandy D Edge: UGA
The woes continue for Georgia on the Offensive side of the ball. Junior RB Caleb King was arrested and will serve a two game suspension starting Saturday. That leaves RB Washaun Ealey and Freshman RB Ken Malcombe as the two threats on the ground. Charlton Thomas is still nursing a hamstring injury. Malcombe is from SW DeKalb HS and could be the eighth Freshman to play for Mark Richt this season. Ealey continued his fumbling ways last week; putting it on the grass twice. QB Aaron Murray leads the Offense. He has shown great maturity so far this year. He will need to continue to use his weapons around him and use his feet to get out of trouble when he needs too. UGA’s Passing Offense is ranked a respectable 4th SEC considering he was missing his primary target for one/third of the season. Vandy’s Total Defense ranks #6 SEC. They will need to get pressure on the QB if they hope to stay close in this game.
Special Teams Edge: UGA
Georgia has two of the best kickers in the country, last year’s Ray Guy award winner P Drew Butler and PK Blair Walsh who has only missed one field goal all season. He is perfect in PAT’s. Punt returner Brandon Boykin is a threat to go all the way every time he touches the ball. The Bulldogs actually let AJ Green field the first punt of the Tennessee game. I personally would like to see AJ handle more of the Punt and kick-off return duties. Why not get the ball to your best player as much as you can?
Intangibles Edge: UGA
Georgia enters this game with its Head Coach on a “warm” hot seat; and the Dawgs are looking to continue to right the ship after a horrible 1-4 start. They looked impressive last week vs. a bad Tennessee team. Georgia needs this win to find some sense of its self. The poor tackling and blown coverage’s on the Defensive side of the ball ; and the fumbles and missed opportunities to put 6 points on the board have hampered the Offense. It’s Homecoming in Athens and the fans expect a win. Mark Richt has said the practices this week will be more like last week’s intense full pads workouts. UGA has the better athletes than Vandy and this should be an easy win on paper. Vandy also enters the game hungry. They are starting their stretch of six SEC games in a row this week. They will need to play a near perfect game to beat UGA. If Offensive Coordinator Mike Bobo can get the ball to AJ Green on a more consistent basis; it will help open up the running game and UGA can eat up the game clock and limit Vandy’s Offense on the field.