Opponent: Georgia Bulldogs
Date: October 6
All-time series record: Georgia leads, 56-20-2
Last meeting: October 7, 2017, in Nashville. Georgia won, 45-14.
Last year’s record: 13-2 (3rd in S&P+)
Head coach: Kirby Smart (20-8, 3rd year)
Returning starters: 10 (7 offense, 3 defense)
On October 15, 2016, Zach Cunningham stuffed a 4th-down attempt in the game’s final minute to preserve a 17-16 Vanderbilt win over Georgia, in what was Derek Mason’s first SEC road win (and just his third conference win overall.) Georgia would end the season with a 7-6 record.
From the looks of things, that might be the last time in quite a while that Georgia goes 7-6 — and the last time Vanderbilt beats Georgia unless things improve a lot on the Commodores’ side. Georgia won its first nine games of last season and rose to #1 in the College Football Playoff rankings (though they never claimed the #1 spot in the AP poll), and that included a 45-14 beatdown of Vanderbilt in Nashville. They ended the season with an overtime loss to Alabama in the national championship game. And they followed that up by signing the nation’s #1 recruiting class in February.
In other words, Georgia is becoming everything we always thought they could be.
As far as this year goes, Georgia will probably have to go through some retooling after losing twelve starters, including eight on the defensive side of the ball. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are off to the NFL after rushing for over 8,000 career yards between the two of them. On the defensive side of the ball, the Bulldogs have to replace two of their top three tacklers (Roquan Smith and Lorenzo Carter) as well as the leader of the secondary, Dominick Sanders, and his 16 career interceptions.
But when you’ve signed the #3 and the #1 recruiting class in the country over the last two years, there’s a good chance that the players replacing those guys are as good as better. Over the last two years, Georgia has signed ten players who were rated as five-star recruits in the 247 Sports composite. And Jake Fromm is back to lead the offense after throwing for 2,615 yards and 24 touchdowns as a true freshman. Backup (and onetime starter) Jacob Eason transferred to Washington, but five-star true freshman Justin Fields is available if anything happens to Fromm. D’Andre Swift averaged 7.6 yards per carry as a true freshman and that’s the guy who will be getting the ball now that Chubb and Michel are gone.
In other words, Georgia’s going to be loaded again, and we have to go to Athens this year. We’re not going to try to spin this as “well maybe this could be a win...” No, this is going to be a loss; just shrug your shoulders and move on.