I'm going to offer up the unsupportable opinion here. It might be best for Vanderbilt to lose this game. In fact, James Franklin's tenure in Nashville could depend on it.
Hear me out. This is a convoluted situation, but bear with me.
Mark Richt's seat has never been hotter at Georgia. After season-opening losses to Boise State and South Carolina, some fans were calling for his head. He's righted the ship with four straight wins over low-to-mid-level teams, but the pressure isn't off by any means. A loss to Vanderbilt could be the straw that breaks the camel's back. A 7-5 season would almost certainly earn the coach some mandatory vacation time.
If Richt is forced out in Athens, who would take his place? Well, how about the cocksure new SEC coach who has turned Georgia into his prime recruiting ground? James Franklin has earned high praise for his turnaround story at Vanderbilt, and a win over UGA would put the team at 4-2 and give the Commodores two more conference wins than many predicted they'd have all year. If Franklin could take this ragtag team - a squad working with their third head coach in as many years - to a seven or eight win season, his coaching stock would rise to Malzahn-ian levels.
Would Georgia offer Franklin their head coaching position after one moderately successful year at Vanderbilt? It's unlikely, but possible. Gerry DiNardo got scooped up by LSU just by winning five games a year in Nashville. Would Franklin jump ship after just one season in black and gold? That may be even more unlikely, especially given the emphasis of his recruiting pitch - starting a football legacy at Dudley Field. Leaving after one year would counter every great thing he's had to say about the school, both in the media and to his recruits. It would crumble the character on which Franklin has staked his football reputation.
Still, money talks, and Georgia would be able to throw a ton of it his way, along with better facilities, a better fan base, and better recruits.
So should we root for the 'Dores to fall against the Bulldogs? Hell no. But a win hastens Mark Richt's exit in Athens, and if Franklin keeps winning in Nashville, those 'Dawgs are going to come sniffing around Dudley Field for their next coach.
AoG Staff predictions and our SEC Upset Pick of the Week are after the jump...
Train Island - Georgia is playing well recently, rattling off three straight SEC wins to put the team back in consideration for a top 25 spot. However, their resume over that span isn't terribly impressive. So far, they've beaten FCS foe Coastal Carolina, the terrible Ole Miss, a freefalling Mississippi State team, and an unproven Tennessee squad.
Georgia's defense has limited their last three SEC foes to just 11.7 points per game. In three conference tilts, Vanderbilt has averaged 11 points per contest. The 'Dawgs have proven that they have the talent to shut down mediocre-to-bad SEC offenses, and I can't see Vandy being a South Carolina-like exception to this trend. As the quarterback battle rages between Larry Smith and Jordan Rodgers, the 'Dores will have to rely on their running game, an aspect of the offense that has been non-existent in the past two games. Unfortunately, UGA has allowed -20, 56, and 34 yards on the ground in their last three games, respectively.
That's not good for Vanderbilt.
So, the offense is probably screwed. What about the defense? Boise State beat Georgia by pressuring Aaron Murray and stopping the run, but a few big plays kept the Bulldogs in the game and prevented what should have been an embarrassing loss. I can imagine this Vanderbilt game going similarly, as the Commodore defensive line can produce the pressure to force mistakes and keep this game from getting out of hand. However, without a reliable offense, it seems likely that the Vandy defense will be the victims of a significant time of possession disadvantage. This means tired players, and UGA pulling away in the second half.
TI's Pick: Georgia 27, Vanderbilt 10
TI's SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Auburn over Florida. Auburn keeps finding a way to win tight games, while Florida's quarterback situation is still a bit of a mess. Despite playing at home and being the ranked team in this matchup, the Tigers are a two-point underdog. Like UGA, Florida's best win is over a middling UT squad, and Auburn should have enough firepower to limit the Gators in an upset win.
KingJamesIV - It's very easy for me to quantify James Franklin's impact on our program. In only a handful of games (and only a few more months), Coach Franklin has me assessing our chances in a mid-October game versus an SEC opponent and there are parts of me that thinks we can win this one. This is unlike any other head coach's first season where I am outwardly optimistic but inwardly dreading the weekend's eventual outcome. It speaks volumes about Coach Franklin and the future of Commodore football.
Georgia has overcome a slow start and is playing some good football right now. If I were to provide a scale by which I could measure my confidence in this game, it would be less than Ole Miss, but above South Carolina.
As TI mentioned, Vanderbilt had some bright spots against Alabama. If the offensive line can figure out how to turn in a solid run block performance in the same game as a solid, no sack allowed pass block performance, we should be golden!
I should also mention that there are a number of high profile recruits that will be attending this game, so it is vitally important for fans to show up and show up early.
KJIV's Pick: Georgia 24, Vanderbilt 20, though I'm obviously hoping to be wrong in a Commodore-positive way. I'm just not sure if we'll be able to overcome a somewhat warmer-than-luke Bulldog squad.
KJIV's SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Mississippi State over South Carolina. Dan Mullen and his Bulldogs get their first SEC win of the season against the Garcia-less Gamecocks. Steve Spurrier will be without his talismanic quarterback when Connor Shaw experiences a bit of a statistical return to norm this week.
SectFRow1Seat30: Opening Line: 13.5. Current Line: 11.5. O/U: 41.
Movement Indicates: People doubting UGA and putting faith in the Commie D.
Prediction: Defense steps it up and the offense builds on some of the momentum that started to build last week. Also, something huge will happen on special teams. Bet to make: Vandy and the Under.
SFR1S30 Pick: Vandy 21 UGA 17. And James Franklin does not go to UGA next year. Sorry, TI. If Richt is gone, UGA is going to throw money at somebody with a longer head coaching track record of success that Franklin.