Carey Spear, Jerron Seymour, Jordan Matthews, Austyn Carta-Samuels, Wesley Johnson, Patton Robinette, Johnathan Krause, Kenny Ladler, and Darreon Herring all played huge roles in Vanderbilt's 31-27 upset of Georgia in 2013. On Saturday, Seymour and Herring may be the only two players from that list who can make it two in a row against the Bulldogs.
Vanderbilt and Georgia have been on two very different trajectories since the calendar flipped to 2014. UGA sits at 3-1 for the season, is ranked #12 nationally, and boasts a Heisman Trophy favorite amongst its playmakers. The Commodores are 1-4, struggling to crack the top 100, and have cycled through four quarterbacks in a month of gameplay. Needless to say, the odds aren't in Vandy's favor for this weekend's matchup in Athens.
That doesn't mean that Derek Mason can't pull out a historic upset, however. Vanderbilt has shown flashes of efficiency and dynamic playmaking despite a terrible start to the season. Freshman Ralph Webb has teamed with Seymour to give the 'Dores an underrated rushing platoon that has succeeded despite underwhelming play along the offensive line. Darrius Sims, who Mason suggested would start seeing snaps on offense this weekend, plays like a bolt of electricity sprung from the clouds every time he touches the ball. A continually-developing pass rush has the speed and power to plant QB Hutson Mason into the Sanford Stadium turf every time he drops back to pass.
It will take huge performances from those players and more to keep Georgia - a 33-point favorite - from running away with this one. Vanderbilt will be throwing a young team into a hostile environment on Saturday, and while there will be plenty of teachable moments, there may not be a slew of happy ones. Can the 'Dores shock the SEC with a win on Saturday? Let's dig in:
Christian D'Andrea: This is pessimistic, especially after Vanderbilt limited Kentucky's offense to just 17 points last week, but I don't see how the Commodores contain Todd Gurley without completely selling out to stop the run and load up the line of scrimmage with eight defenders. That means that the 'Dores will be forced to play a lot of man-to-man coverage with limited safety help - a tall task for a young secondary that struggled to contain receivers from Temple and UMass. Georgia is going to be able to score often on Saturday, especially if their offense can't sustain the kind of drives that give a gassed defense time to recover.
That means any chance of a VU upset will come down to the offense, something no Vanderbilt fan wants to hear right now. The offense we last week looked like the fever dreams of a turkey-inseminating coach who had been installed on the sidelines by circumstance. Wade Freebeck never had a chance to follow up on his success against South Carolina because he was too busy trying to figure out who let all these damned wildebeests onto the field and if he should feel guilty for his father Musafa's death.
Freebeck will improve on last week's performance, but asking him to lead this team to 30+ points on the road against a top 15 SEC opponent is asking quite a lot. Any Vandy win will have to come with a lot of help from guys like Darrius Sims, Paris Head, and the catdog rushing combination of Jerron Seymour and Ralph Webb. There's a chance these 'Dores can catch UGA unaware, but they'll need one hell of an effort to take the lead on Saturday, let alone hang on to it.
The Pick: Georgia 34, Vandy 13.
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Texas A&M (+2.5) over MISSISSIPPI STATE. It looks like bettors really value the distracting power of the cowbell. Still, I think Kenny Hill does enough on offense to win another shootout this weekend.
Andrew VU '04: I've had a bad feeling about this game since before the season started. Now, I hear Mason's going on radio shows talking about how we're going to stop Gurley. No. Just no. Don't poke the bear, Mason. Don't poke the bear. Georgia had already circled this week due to last year's loss to us, and now it's double-circled in the lipstick of a psychopathic, gun-wielding Steve Buscemi type. I'm praying this is just one of those Derek Mason semantic flubs along the lines of Lionel Hutz's business cards ("Works on contingency? No! Money down!"). Either way, Coach Mason's going to have to earn those two popsicles and a broken birdcage this week. Prove me wrong, coach. Show me that's why I'm the writer and you're the "Football talking guy" who wasn't "wearing a tie at all."
I dare you to out-reference me this week, Christian or VandyTigerPhD.
The Pick: Georgia 52, Vandy 3. Looks like I picked a bad week to quit huffing glue...
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: OLE MISS (+6) over Ramajama. This pick is entirely contingent on Dr. Bo not throwing 4 interceptions (which is coin flip probable). For some reason, I think Good Bo shows up this week, and I'm still skeptical of the 2014 version of the Springfield A&M Nittany Tide. In other words, I'm calling more than a few phone calls that say only "Saban's just not the man for the job, Pawwwwwwwwl!" Of course, Dr. Bo could certainly make a monkey out of me.
Help me, Dr. Bo!
VandyTigerPhd: Dear VU04, I am disgusted with the way 'Dores fans are depicted on television. We are not all vibrant, fun loving, confident fans. Many of us are bitter, resentful individuals who remember the good old days when our football team was bland and inoffensive. The following is a list of phrases I never want to hear during a football game again. Number One: Isolation, Number Two: concussion, Number Three: The Process.
All kidding aside, like the USC game, we all knew this was going to be a rough game even at the start of the season. Then the seasons started, and we saw just how young and inexperienced we are. I've gotten to the point a few times this season where I thought I was too old for this kinda crap. I thought my time of investing so much time and energy into VUFB had passed. I thought I'd never ever hear the screams or pain, or see the terror in a young man's eyes as he realized what he signed four years of his life to. Thank heaven for Freshman.
Really, though, UGA outmatches us in most categories you can name, and that's even accounting for the OOC scheduling. Couple that with the upset last year and that we're playing in Athens, and you have all the ingredients for a satisfying nerve tonic, I mean, horrible loss. As for how to get through this game? Listen, all the alcohol we want is just across the border. I've a friend that'll help us through this.
But hey, we never know what people are capable of. Hell, I never thought I could shoot down a German plane... but last year I proved myself wrong! We've also certainly seen signs of brilliance from the team just two weeks ago, so there's (faint) hope. Can I give you an example of a "out of nowhere" win like we'll need? Ok, you got me. The story of the Commodores begins in the old country. I forget which one, exactly. Cornelius Vanderbilt would drone on and on about Nashville. He thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread... sliced bread having been invented the previous Winter....
The Pick: UGA 42, Vandy 10. UGA needs to crush Vanderbilt to keep their high hopes for postseason, well, high. But really, when you ask who's going to win and by how much, you're asking two questions. The first takes me back to 1934. Admiral Byrd had just reached the Pole, only hours ahead of the three stooges...
SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Well, well. Before I was too old, and no one wanted my predictions. Suddenly, look who comes to ol' VTPHD for... wait! Ok, I'll tell ya. The upset pick is right under our nose the whole time, and I'm going Florida (-1.5) over Tennessee in a game that just might make this week bearable.