Saturday Predictions: Vanderbilt at Georgia

It's become a tradition; whenever Vanderbilt heads to Athens for a football game, you can bet it's going to be during homecoming weekend. Saturday will mark the 22nd Vandy/UGA game at Georgia's homecoming, and in the 21 games that precede it, the Commodores have pulled out just three wins. However, the Bulldogs' recent troubles, coupled with a blueprint for success from the 2006 game, could swing this year's affair in the visiting team's favor.

The Bulldogs were ranked #14 and coming off a brutal loss to Tennessee when the 'Dores came to town in 2006, and everything was in place for a cathartic Vanderbilt stomping to get Georgia back on track. After all, the 'Dawgs hadn't lost to our lowly squad since 1994, and had Matthew Stafford behind center. Coach Bobby Johnson, however, had other plans, and a team led by Chris Nickson and Earl Bennett jumped out to an early 21-10 lead. After a pair of Nickson interceptions put the Bulldogs on top, Bryant Hahnfeldt kicked the game-winning 33 yard field goal with :02 left on the clock and a stunned crowd in the stands. As soon as the game was over, the Georgia groundscrew pulled the plug on the stadium scoreboard in the midst of a silent crowd.

Will Vanderbilt be able to pull off another similar outcome in 2010? It will be tough. Neither team is as good as they were in 2006, with Georgia's recent shame (four straight losses before defeating Tennessee last week, including a loss to perpetually floundering Colorado) being the headlining story of the match-up. The 'Dores haven't been much better, beating an Ole Miss team that lost to Jacksonville State and the worst team in the FBS, Eastern Michigan. However, with both teams coming off of blowout wins, there will be a lot of momentum crashing into Sanford Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Can the Commodores push their SEC record over .500? Will Georgia drop out of SEC contention entirely? Can Mark Richt beat Vandy badly enough to justify keeping his job? And if he doesn't, would he like to apply for a coaching position in Nashville? These are the tough questions that your faithful AoG staff get paid enormous salaries to cover. Let's gaze into the crystal ball and see what we can come up with.

Train Island - Let's get this out of the way first; if Vanderbilt wins, it's feasible that they'll be in first place in the SEC East through seven weeks of the season. Granted, it's assuming several unlikely scenarios; a Vandy win, a South Carolina loss to Kentucky, and some fuzzy math when weighing a 2-1 conference record versus a 3-2 record - but it's still a possibility. The more likely outcome, however, is some SEC legitimacy for either team depending on the outcome. For the Commodores, it means a brief - but meaningful - push over the .500 mark in league play. For the Bulldogs, it shows the rest of the SEC that reports of their demise may have been exaggerated.

Georgia comes into this game with their worst record since 1970 when a 1-3 Bulldog team took out their frustrations at home, demolishing Vanderbilt 37-3. Last week's dismantling of Tennessee seems to suggest that UGA will be primed to dole out a similar beating 40 years later. With A.J. Green back in the lineup, this team's offense looked to finally be firing on all cylinders and will provide a major test for the 'Dores.

However, Green will be pitted against Vandy's strength on the field - their secondary. Rising star Casey Heyward should draw the primary assignment on UGA's best player, and will be able to limit the sophomore to a relatively mediocre day (60 yards receiving and a touchdown would be a nice touch). As long as the front line can contain potent runners Caleb King and Washaun Ealey, the 'Dores will have a real chance of winning the kind of slopfest in which the team thrives.

Offensively, they'll need Larry Smith to retain some of his EMU swagger and to stay off the turf long enough to make some big plays. It is unlikely that Vandy will be able to rip off big gains as regularly as they did against the worst team in the FBS, but they'll have to take some chances to beat a rejuvenated 'Dawg squad. Warren Norman and Zac Stacy will have to come up big as well in order to get this team the points they need to win - especially after UGA basically crapped all over Tennessee's run game last week. 

In all, Vanderbilt is a 14.5 point underdog despite having the same amount of wins as Georgia - and it's tough to argue why. Since 2000, the average outcome has been a 15.3 point Bulldog victory, and the Commodores haven't beaten this team once since 1995. However, against all odds, many of the fans in Nashville still think that the team has a legitimate shot in Nashville. Count me in with those optimists.

Prediction?: Vanderbilt 26, Georgia 21. I'm so sorry, Coach Richt.

***

KingJamesIV - I'll admit that I was feeling much more optimistic about this matchup prior to Georgia's shallacking of the Volunteers last week (although the rules of schadenfraude dictated that it was an extremely enjoyable and entertaining affair). How much of that result was Georgia's dominance and how much was Tennessee's incompetence? And how likely is Georgia to play at or near the same level? Will some of the offensive success Vanderbilt enjoyed against lowly Eastern Michigan carry over against Georgia? These are pertinent questions.

Do I think Vanderbilt has the ability to beat Georgia? Yes. Do I see the Commodores ruining the Bulldogs homecoming to the tune of 43 points to 30 points? Not exactly. But maybe that's where we've got them beat? They think we don't want to score 43 points because we typically avoid larger prime numbers at all costs.

The spread is somewhere around 16 points. I bet those yellow sissy bulldogs don't even have the balls to actually spot us 16 real life points prior to kickoff.

I'd feel much better about our chances if that were the case. As the old saying goes, "let sleeping dogs lie." Thanks for stirring the bulldogs last week, UT. Jerks.

Prediction?: Georgia 27, Vanderbilt 17. If we're going to lose, PLEASE LORD LET US LOSE IN A LESS EMBARRASSING FASHION THAN TENNESSEE DID LAST WEEK. Or just be a peach and grant us victory. Thanks, Hoss.

*** 

Vandy Dan – Call me crazy, but Georgia’s win over Tennessee makes me feel a little better about this weekend’s game.  Sure, a 41-14 win over Tennessee is impressive, but it did not automatically return Georgia to the ranks of the SEC elite.  If Georgia was a powerhouse, they would not have lost to Mississippi St. and Colorado.  The only thing that the Tennessee win does for Georgia is ease some of the desperation that served as a catalyst for the blowout win.  Thanks to Caleb King, Georgia has not even been able to enjoy momentum that usually accompanies an SEC blowout win over anybody other than Vanderbilt.

Georgia’s formula for victory looks pretty simple.  In two wins (over the mighty Vols and La.-Lafeyette), Georgia has scored 31 points off of six turnovers.  In four losses, Georgia has failed to register a single point off of three turnovers.  If Vandy takes care of the ball, we can win this game.

Sure, everyone is talking about Georgia getting a few of its offensive guys back on prison work release programs or whatever.  Yet, Vanderbilt is getting two key players back on defense this weekend.  Chris Marve returns from arthroscopic knee surgery, while Adam Smotherman makes his debut after tearing his ACL in the spring.  Both should help Vanderbilt keep this one close.

You know what?  Screw just keeping it close.  Vanderbilt has ruined Georgia’s homecoming before – and that Georgia team was a lot better than this one.  Plus, it should be clear to everyone by now that Uga VII cursed the UGA program with his untimely death.

Prediction?  Georgia 22, Vanderbilt 24.  Uga VIII is euthanized following the loss.  If not, Vanderbilt's season is over anyway and nobody will remember this prediction.

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