Georgia football: 5 things I’d like to see from the Bulldogs against Vanderbilt
My, how times have changed. Georgia beat Tennessee 38-12 last week, and it appears now that a 26-point win against an archrival does nothing to appease the haters out there. The Bulldogs are 5-0 and still ranked No. 2 in the nation, but it’s the warts that are getting pointed out, not the good stuff.
Even Paul Finebaum got in the bashing, questioning whether Georgia was even a playoff team anymore. No one seems worried that the Bulldogs will have an issue Saturday night at home against Vanderbilt (7:30 p.m., SEC Network), but there are concerns down the road. Finebaum wonders if Georgia can beat LSU or Auburn or possibly Alabama.
The bar is clearly set high now. Five straight wins, all by 14 points or more, don’t seem to mean much to people. So, with that said, here are five things I want to see from Georgia this weekend against Vanderbilt:
1. Defensive line gets Vanderbilt QB Kyle Shurmur off his spot
Anytime you face a quarterback with a ton of experience, you have to have some reasonable concern that he might light you up. Georgia has already been through that with Jake Bentley and Drew Lock. Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur has played 35 games since 2015, and there’s no doubt he can play. He has thrown for 6,966 yards and 49 touchdowns in his career, and even though he has struggled in two starts against Georgia — both losses — he’s still dangerous. Georgia’s pass rush has been better, even though the sack totals still aren’t impressive, so they need to keep Shurmur uncomfortable all night.
2. Get D’Andre Swift rolling in crowded backfield
Georgia is averaging 6.0 yards per carry, so there’s no reason for anyone to panic, but it sure would be nice if starting tailback D’Andre Swift finally has a huge game. He has been battling a groin injury, but it’s still shocking that he hasn’t had a huge game yet. His biggest game has been just 71 yards against Missouri, and he has only 240 yards on 52 carries through these first five games. That’s 4.6 yards per carry, far off his 7.6-yard average from a year ago. The Bulldogs have great depth at running back with Elijah Holyfield, Brian Herrien and James Cook, but it would still be nice to see Swift have a huge game.
3. Let the quarterback shuffle continue without causing problems
For the first time this season, Georgia coach Kirby Smart rotated quarterbacks in critical situations last week against Tennessee, replacing starter Jake Fromm with freshman sensation Justin Fields in the middle of drives. Both guys have been playing well, but through the first four weeks, it was always clear that Fromm would play as long as the outcome was still in doubt. That changed last week, and it’s going to be interesting to see what happens going forward. Unlike at Clemson and Alabama, this quarterback battle hasn’t imploded, and everyone involved — especially Fromm, Fields and Smart — deserves a lot of credit for handling it so well. Both will play — probably a lot — on Saturday, setting the stage for more debate going forward.
4. Keep scoring early off turnovers
It’s an amazing coincidence that Georgia has scored the first touchdown on a fumble return for a score in three straight SEC games. They’ve happened in three different weird ways, but the Bulldogs will always take it. There’s nothing better than grabbing an early lead in a conference game, because it’s always so much easier to play from ahead. Georgia still has never trailed this season. Might as well keep it up on Saturday night and not let Vandy think they have a chance here.
5. Now that style points matter, it’s time for a blowout win
If push is going to come to shove in the selection committee room come College Football Playoff time, then Georgia might as well do something about it and start posting some huge numbers. They have scored at least 38 points every week — and they’re averaging 43.2 points per game — and that doesn’t seem to matter. They have only allowed 65 points (13 per game), and that doesn’t seem to matter, either. This might be a bad spot for the better-than-usual Commodores. A rout might be on early.