VTPhD Note: Usually this is where CDA gives a bit of a preview before the picks. In his absence, you have to deal with my unintelligible stream of consciousness instead.
Vanderbilt hosts #9 Georgia this week following a 14-12 loss to Western Kentucky at home. Some people seem to be confused as to whether this was an upset or not. I'd like to remind everyone that not only did everyone pick WKU to win, not only did the oddsmakers put us as the underdog, but most of us here even predicted a BLOWOUT loss.
It didn't happen. In fact, if any of many mistakes go our way, we win. Either of Johnny's endzone picks, the missed FG, the bad throw on the 2pc that forced the receiver to slow down, losing the momentum he would have to get into the endzone. That's just a few! The defense only really let up points towards the end, but it still looked great against a team that was supposed to destroy us on land in and n the air.
We don't have great success against UGA in terms of wins and losses, but we've given them plenty of close games in the past. This is not likely to be one of them as UGA, ranked 9, is poised to win the East this year, while we, well, aren't. Nick Chubb is the guy to watch out for. We may have held one of the best RBs in the country to under 60 yards last week, but this is the UGA offensive line. They excel at being huge monsters who can create holes for their tailbacks.
On the other side, we have an improved offense, but still one that makes plenty of mistakes. UGA will not be as lenient as WKU was. They hit harder, they cover better, and will capitalize on everything. We must be error free if we want a prayer of keeping in this.
On to the picks.
Christian D'Andrea: Vanderbilt may have lost on Thursday, but their spread-covering showing was enough to knock the line on this game down 12 points from where it was one year ago. Granted, that's still a 20.5 point gap between them and the Bulldogs, but hey! Progress!
The Commodores showed off several improvements on the defensive side of the ball last week. Their defensive line refused to be budged, sealing holes and limiting the work that their interior linebackers had to do against a potent Hilltopper offense. While WKU suffered from their own mistakes, holding a team that averaged more than 44 points per game last season to only 14 is something from which Derek Mason can build.
The offense, on the other hand, is more troubling. Western Kentucky gave up nearly 40 points per contest last year, and while Vanderbilt had several scoring opportunities, they failed to execute in the moments that mattered the most. Johnny McCrary was too eager to throw into double teams and ignored coverage that pressed him to check down to a third or fourth receiver. This team can make those mistakes against WKU and take a lead into the second half, but Georgia won't be nearly as forgiving.
That's bad news, because the Commodores will have to play a mistake free game to pull off the home upset. They'll have to force turnovers (something they failed to do against Western Kentucky) and protect the ball while still finding a way to take chances downfield and score once they reach the red zone. That's a lot to ask from a young team playing against a top 10 program in their second game of the season. Ultimately, I think Vanderbilt will play well enough to impress some of their doubters, but they'll fall short of pulling off the upset.
The Pick: Georgia 24, Vanderbilt 17.
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: MISSISSIPPI STATE (+4.5) over LSU. Yeah, I'm still riding that Dak.
Tom Stephenson: I want to pick Vandy to win this game, I really do. The Vandy defense showed some promise last week against Western Kentucky, but Georgia is a whole different ballgame, not only in terms of talent but also playing style. Where WKU basically just wanted to screen pass us to death (and mostly failed), Georgia is almost a straight power-run team, and stopping that kind of attack is much different. Derek Mason can write "STOP NICK CHUBB" in big bold letters on his cheat sheet all he wants; this doesn't make it any easier.
The path to victory means either Vandy must jump out to an early lead (that's you, offense) or do something to slow down the run game. Shorter version: if Vandy wants to have a chance to win, they have to force Georgia to beat them with the pass. I just don't see that happening, but I do see Vandy keeping it respectable (read: I THINK WE WILL COVER THE SPREAD.)
The Pick: Georgia 35, Vanderbilt 17
SEC Upset Pick of the Week:
Middle Tennessee (+35.5) over Alabama let's go with Kentucky (+7.5) over South Carolina. I really don't see any good upset picks this week (unless you consider Mississippi State beating LSU an "upset" like Vegas does), so we'll go with Kentucky over a South Carolina team that looked unimpressive in its opener. Then again, so did Kentucky... damnit.
Andrew VU '04: I'll be at a bachelor party this weekend, so I likely won't get to watch it until I get back in town Monday. I'm not going to be that guy and ask all of you to refrain from telling me the score, but let's just say I'm glad I'll have something else to do this weekend.
We are improved. Derek Mason impressed me a bit last week, and Andy Ludwig's play calling is more than cromulent.
None of this matters. Georgia is frighteningly good this year, and will put up 250-300 yards on the ground alone. Let's not fool ourselves, here. Barring something horrid happening to their team plane, this is going to be brutal.
I'll be DVR-ing this one. When I watch, I won't be watching through the lens of winning or losing. Rather, I'm just looking for some improvement out of McCrary (especially in the red zone). If he shows growth, we'll still have a lot to hang our hets on.
The Pick: Georgia 41, Vanderbilt 13.
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: MISSISSIPPI STATE (+4.5) over LSU. MSU has a quarterback. LSU does not.
VandyTigerPhD: I'm going to be totally original here and say something different. Hahahah just kidding. We're a vastly improved team from last year. This game is going to mean a lot because UGA is probably going to win the East this year and it's going to be a good litmus test for how our guys can handle it. Not just that, but it will be a good test to see how our coaches can adapt. Perhaps it will even be a way to see how predictable we are, but I don't see that (just yet). The 2pc play was predictable last week, but that's a very specific circumstance - a must get with a QB who's been questionable all game and really how many 2pc plays does a coach have?
Despite the false modesty of our UGA friends, they're going to crush us. What I'm hoping to see is a team that's at least making better decisions. The gameplan will be a big thing too, though I'm not entirely sure what we can do defensively to stop these guys. UGA has way more depth and talent. Offensively, I saw the ability to move the ball against WKU, something we didn't see all year last year. Still, we didn't finish drives....
The Pick: UGA 52 - Vandy 17
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: I'll cover this a bit more in Saturday Tailgate, but I'm taking MSU (+4.5) to upset LSU. Being without the McNeese State warmup game, and on the road against a MSU team that has given LSU trouble in recent years? Ick.
VUFanInTx: This may be the hardest game on Vandy's schedule. The young 'Dores will have to execute with near perfection to beat them Dawgs. A couple mistakes from Georgia could help add pressure and make the game closer than Georgia fans want it to be. Ultimately it will all depend on the offensive execution. If we can slow the game down enough and score TDs in the red zone, we can limit Nick Chubb's effect on the game.
Defensively, stopping the running game will be a tall task but CDM's coaching should be able to at least slow it down. If we cannot get turnovers and force some three and outs, it may be a long game for both sides of the ball. Ultimately, I have faith in the defense and believe that the offense will not make as many boneheaded plays in the red zone. Even with that, UGA is just way more talented and polished at this stage for us to come out victorious.
The Pick: UGA 35 - Vandy 24
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: I am going to go with the Pirates beating UF. With a RS-Fr QB at the helm, I think UF will falter and be on cast off the plank, YAAAAR. (sorry its been a long week.)