Two years ago, Vanderbilt went to Georgia for the Bulldogs’ homecoming game. Kirby Smart overthought a 4th-and-1 play call, Zach Cunningham stuffed Isaiah McKenzie, and Vanderbilt walked out with a 17-16 win, Derek Mason’s first SEC road win.
Now, Vanderbilt is an even bigger underdog heading into Athens (once again for Georgia’s homecoming.) The Commodores entered the 2016 game as a 14-point underdog; in 2018, against the #2 team in the country, Vanderbilt is a 26.5-point underdog. (That’s actually less than the line in the 2014 game in Athens, in which Vanderbilt was a 33.5-point underdog, but that was more a reflection of Vanderbilt being objectively terrible than anything else.) Derek Mason may not be interested in moral victories, but a moral victory is about all that Vanderbilt can realistically hope for on Saturday. What say the writers?
Georgia has looked somewhat human over the last couple of weeks, winning by “only” two touchdowns in a road trip to Missouri two weeks ago, then sleepwalking through a 38-12 win over Tennessee last weekend. It’s saying something about the current state of the football programs at both Georgia and Tennessee that I just used “sleepwalking” and “38-12 win over Tennessee” in the same sentence, but that’s where we are in 2018.
I can see Vanderbilt hitting enough big plays to keep the final score somewhat respectable, but an outright win is definitely not something I can see this week. And especially not if Vanderbilt delivers the same effort that it did against South Carolina and Tennessee State. If we get a Notre Dame-level effort, this might still be interesting at halftime.
The Pick: Georgia 49, Vanderbilt 14.
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: I’ve been complaining about the lack of viable upset picks in this space, so I have to give kudos to the underdogs of the SEC for actually making me think about this one. Give me MISSISSIPPI STATE (+3) over Auburn, the latter of which has been underwhelming in its last two games, and the former of which is undervalued after consecutive losses to Kentucky and Florida.
The Pick: Georgia 223 - Vanderbilt 0. Cumberland can finally rest!
SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Let’s just throw all caution to the wind and gimme UK (+6) to shock Aggie at Kyle Field. Because that’s the kind of season we’re having. We’re going to have to play a top-ten UK squad.
Andrew VU ‘04
I was literally about to paste in the Mr. T “Prediction? Pain.” video, but I scrolled up and saw VTPhD had already beat me to it. Consider my thunder stolen. In its stead, I will post the scene from Reservoir Dogs when Michael Madsen slices off the cop’s ear.
The Pick: Georgia Eleventy Billion - Vanderbilt Absolute Zero. They will beat us by an imaginary number, and we will have the temperature at which all movement ceases.
SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Missourah is favored by 2 points. The South Cackalacky Game Penises will beat the team we all refuse to recognize. This should not be an upset, but here we are.
Part of me wants to come out with a freshly ungunked Sunshine Pump spewing sunshine, happiness, and pink, fluffy unicorns dancing on rainbows (there IS a 1 hour loop of this that I almost linked, so be grateful). And by “part of me” I mean “97% of me.” Another 2.5% realizes that the real optimism I do have needs to be tempered to get some traction while the remaining 0.5% is still sitting through the rain at the end of the SC game yelling swear words at the sky as our offense fails to capitalize on the turnovers that should have put us back into that game. And before anyone gets out a torchfork for pointing out that we had the ball down 16 (still just two scores) and had created some momentum by forcing a turnover when SC was in position to ice the game by getting at least a FG from our 8-yard line then choked on our chance, yes, it was still a massive long shot. That game was misfire after misfire offensively with missed tackles and assignments abounding on defense.
Anyway, before I dive down the rabbit hole sparked by not being able to do my usual Lessons from that game, it comes back to Georgia. It is going to take a su (perhuman effort by a few guys on defense while the rest of them have their A-game. Turnovers will have to be forced (9 forced in the first 5 games) while improving the tackling. The defense as a whole seems to be too aggressive and trying to force a turnover on every play instead of doing the simple things while looking for prime opportunities to get the ball back. Offensively, Shurmur needs to get out of this turnover funk where he has his “Rex Grossman moment” (thanks CDA, I think). Ke’Shawn Vaughn also probably needs to break a big run or two while not reverting to his early season method of trying to hit a home run on every carry. Basically, even I think about 45 different things need to go perfectly right to repeat 2016’s win. I expect a better showing than against SC and TSU, but the result could still be ugly.
The Pick: 45-20 in favor of the weirdos who bark at people
SEC Upset Pick of the Week: I’m going for the Big XII over SEC upset because it is officially Locktober! Missourah deflates the Game Penises.
We all felt very good about this team after two meaningless non-conference wins, then had that confidence boosted by a moral victory in South Bend. And then we pissed all that goodwill away with a blowout loss in our first SEC game, and then sunk to new lows by barely beating an FCS team.
So, this might be the most Vanderbilt team to ever Vanderbilt.
Derek Mason’s defense has overachieved after losing a wide swath of starters last spring, and we’ll figure out if this unit is for real against a Georgia team that now pairs its typically-dominant running game with a quarterback who’s averaging a 10-yard gain every time he throws the ball. Even a solid performance will mean the Vandy offense is probably going to have to score 28+ points to win this one.
After the first two weeks of the season, I would have been okay with that. Vandy has the tools to make that work, whether it’s a senior quarterback in Shurmur, one of the SEC’s best tailback platoons, or an underrated group of wideouts. But Shurmur has taken a step back over the last three weeks (4 INTs, 7.3 yards per pass), and he’ll need to throw his way out of that slump to make the Commodores a postseason team.
But UGA is holding opposing QBs to a 57% completion rate and fewer than five yards per attempt, which means Saturday’s pass-heavy offense is facing long odds for a turnaround. The only way Vanderbilt can win this one is by establishing its running game early, wearing down the ‘Dawgs and opening up some passing lanes that Shurmur can exploit. That’s another big ask — and I’m not sure Vandy is up for it.
The pick: Georgia 34, Vanderbilt 24
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Kentucky over TEXAS A&M. The No. 13 Wildcats are a six-point underdog to a 3-2 team whose best win was Arkansas (and they didn’t even beat the Razorbacks as badly as North Texas did). We understand, UK. They’ll never respect you, because you are basically us.