Well, this is just what you want for your season opener, isn’t it?
The #3 Georgia Bulldogs come to Vanderbilt Stadium on Saturday night for the season opener, which will be televised on
the SEC Network FLAGSHIP ESPN, BABY! It’s one thing to open the season with a conference game and quite another thing to open the season with a conference opponent who’s favored to win the game by about three touchdowns at last check. And, of course, the line opened lower than that, but gamblers are apparently really buying into the Bulldogs.
Is the Anchor of Gold writing staff also buying in? Or do we smell an upset?
I’ve already taken some heat for my opinion on this game, but Georgia is simply on a different plane from most of the rest of college football. The Bulldogs’ roster is stacked with former four- and five-star recruits and future NFL players at basically every position; that’s something that most teams are going to have a difficult time with.
With that said, Vanderbilt has enough offensive weapons to keep things interesting. Ke’Shawn Vaughn is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, and the Commodores have a strong receiving corps that should help ease the burden on the new quarterback. Vanderbilt will break off a few big plays and score some points here.
The problem comes on the other side of the ball. Georgia has an experienced quarterback and offensive line and a deep stable of running backs, and they’ll be facing a Vanderbilt defense that has a bunch of new starters in the back seven. It won’t be a shock to see Vanderbilt score points, but it will be a shock if Georgia isn’t scoring points.
The Pick: Georgia 38, Vanderbilt 24
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: I’ll take Oregon (+3.5) over Auburn, which almost feels too easy.
I’m seeing a shootout here. The nice thing is that having Lipscomb and Pinkney means you can’t sell out hard on stuffing the run, so either Vaughn will go turbo or we’ll have a chance to put the ball in the air. Plus, for all the talk and noise and whatnot coming from them Dawgs, I find it impossible to believe that a team ranked #3 in the country isn’t already looking past Vanderbilt, and that tends to trip up UGA more than other schools. In the end, though, the gap between the CFP regulars and everybody else is getting wider with every passing year and I don’t know how to bridge that short of opening the checkbook and going full Southwest Conference.
The Pick: Georgia 35, Vanderbilt 28
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Speaking of the Southwest Conference, Texas State (+35) over Aggie. This is exactly the sort of opener that teams either slop around on and don’t finish the drill or go ballistic trying to re-legislate the end of the last season. I’ll throw my shekels on the former and count on Sinbad and Scott Bakula to keep it under five touchdowns. (Ed. Note: You moron, don’t pick an upset in the Thursday game for a column that runs on Friday!)
The first game of the year is an opportunity for teams to execute what they have worked on all Spring and Fall. Vanderbilt, will be led by hungry offensive players looking to prove they are elite in the conference (and make some money in next year’s NFL draft) and a plethora of young, talented players. If they execute well, this game will be competitive into the fourth quarter. UGA runs a very slow tempo on offense, and if the ‘Dores want to stay in the game, they should, too, thus tightening the score.
However, if it is sloppy, if Vandy turns the ball over and gives UGA more possessions, if Mason shows he’s not adept at limiting his team’s mistakes, then it’ll turn into a route. Expect valiant, passionate performances by Vaughn, Lipscomb, and Pinkney. Expect the DL to play tough and the secondary to surprise (in a good way). But UGA is deep with talent and experience, and will run away with it.
The Pick: Georgia 41, Vanderbilt 20
SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Oregon over Auburn. Herbert and that OL are legit.
My heart and soul (too much time manning the Sunshine Pump) makes me want to pick us. The problem is that I keep waffling between the idea that Vaughn, Pinkney, and Lipscomb all do their thing with somebody like CJ Bolar or Cam Johnson adding a big play or two while the defense does just enough and maybe forces a turnover or two en route to a major upset ... and the fear that Georgia does not look past us which leads to D’Andre Swift and Jake Fromm torching us from behind that scary offensive line while their stifling defense can keep our firepower in check to create an ugly loss.
Last year, the game was close at halftime. If the same thing happens this season, I think the fire and passion of Vaughn and others who have made their feelings VERY clear about the pre-season predictions from the media (including Tom!) will be our “the boats are burning” moment. Unfortunately, the realist is winning out here. Even with that moment, we still fall painfully short. They are one of the best teams in the country. We might just maybe end up sniffing around the Top 25 if this team plays up to its potential and avoids mistakes.
The Pick: Georgia 38, Vanderbilt 34
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: I think Auburn’s defense will totally squelch Oregon’s offense, so I won’t go with that game. I can’t buy Toledo over Kentucky, even with all the pieces that Cats are replacing. To me, the only possible upset (outside of Sunshine Pump fever dreams of our game) is Ole Miss over Memphis. Honestly, I love that possibility. It should shut up some of the talk about Memphis being the best team in #OurState, and it will be funny to see Ole Miss as the upset special over a
CUSA AAC team.