UGA vs. Vanderbilt Preview and Prediction – October 14, 2023
UGA VS. VANDERBILT PREVIEW AND PREDICTION – OCTOBER 14, 2023 — The Dawgs are headed to Nashville, Tenn., to face off against the Vanderbilt Commodores at a noon EDT kickoff Saturday on CBS. Georgia is coming off of a statement win against Kentucky, while Vandy rides a five-game losing streak. Clark Lea is in his third year at the helm for Vandy, so you’d think the program might begin to show some improvements.
But after wins against Hawaii and Alabama A&M, Vandy really went off the rails. After a 16-point loss to Wake Forest and a narrow defeat to UNLV, the ‘Dores have been steamrolled in SEC play. They started conference play against Kentucky, who beat them by 17. They lost by 17 again to Missouri and then by 24 to Florida.
Quarterback Ken Seals replaces AJ Swann for this game. I like Swann and he brings athleticism to the role, but Seals has done a much better job of taking care of the football. That’s important, because Vandy has thrown the most picks and lost the most fumbles of any team in the SEC. 13 turnovers in seven games, oof.
Swann’s been responsible for seven interceptions, while Seals has thrown for six touchdowns and just one interception. Here’s the rub. Under Swann, the ‘Dores turned the ball over too often, but Swann offered a potential run threat defenses had to accounted for. He wasn’t going to run often, but you had to watch for it.
With Seals, Vandy isn’t losing possessions, but it can’t run the ball at all. At the end of the day, when your offensive line is permeable, you’re not going to have success. With Swann or Seals, Vandy picks one only to do damage control, because the offensive line isn’t helping anyone.
(6-0 SU, 2-4 ATS)
(2-5 SU, 0-7 ATS)
When: Saturday, October 14th at Noon EDT
Where: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.
Public Bets: Vanderbilt, 56%
Public Money: Vanderbilt, 68%
Odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of October 13th, 2023.
Vanderbilt on Offense
Vandy does have some bright spots at receiver in Will Sheppard and Jayden McGowan. Sheppard has scored 8 times this season with his longest touchdown against Florida last week for 85 yards. Sheppard is the Commodores’ big body on the outside at 6’3, while McGowan is their undersized receiver at 5’8. McGowan will also get the occasional carry in the backfield.
Speaking of the backfield, two backs have split equal time for Vandy in Patrick Smith and Sedrick Alexander. Both are short, but thick backs who each average around four yards per attempt. Neither are anything to write home about.
Vanderbilt on Defense
Defensively, Vandy is giving up around six yards per play. The Commodores have given up at least 28 points to every P5 team they have faced, and even the 25 spot was to Hawaii in week 1. In the SEC, it’s been a minimum of 38 points scored against them each contest.
Safe to say, this Vandy defense sucks. Their secondary is banged up with injuries at corner and safety. They’re forced to start two freshmen at corner, Martel Hight and Trudell Berry. De’Rickey Wright is also injured at safety and will miss this week. Vandy isn’t exactly great at stopping the run either, but it’s through the air that teams are finding the least amount of resistance so far. Again, their line is just not up to snuff with the rest of the league, making every element of running their defense difficult.
A few notes for the Dawgs before getting into more details. Last week, Darrus Smith and David Daniel missed the UK game. Smith was held out for disciplinary reasons, while Daniel was ill. Georgia is hoping to get Daniel back this week, and I’d expect him to play a decent amount in the second half if he is ready to go. Smith hasn’t gotten much playing time this year, but is as athletic as they come on the edge. He’s a freak, and we have to hope that whatever issues are happening can get sorted out. He has the potential to be a difference maker in due time.
Running back Rodrick Robinson is back running on land, but still won’t be ready this week. Perhaps he’ll be cleared for Florida after the bye. Right tackle Amarius Mims will also not play this week. Wide receiver Ladd McConkey had a quiet week last week, but look for his reps to increase as his back heals and his conditioning improves. Tight end Brock Bowers is also not fully healthy. Nothing major, just dings and soreness, but he’s putting up crazy numbers while not feeling 100%. He’s just a warrior. I’ll be looking for how quickly UGA pulls him in this one to get someone like Lawson Luckie or Pearce Spurlin some more reps.
Related: UGA vs. Kentucky Recap
The Dawgs are coming off of their most impressive offensive performance to date. They should be able to put up some points easily against this Vandy secondary. Beck should shred these guys, and I wouldn’t be shocked if RaRa Thomas and RoJack have big games once again. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Dominic Lovett will have his best game to date this week. I’m not seeing anything schematically that makes me say that, more of just a gut feeling about a guy who has made some impact but nothing to his potential yet.
Again, Bowers should feast if he feels up for it. Even Florida’s tight end was its leading receiver last week against Vandy. Brock could go for 100+ any time he wants against this team. I hope he does, as I’m pulling for him to break Terrence Edwards’ receiving record this year. We’ll see if Kirby and Bobo have any interest in padding Brock’s or Carson’s stats this week.
Related: Dan’s Week 7 College Football Picks
I’d also love to see a solid showing from running back Kendal Milton. I don’t expect a ton of carries from him as they want to keep him healthy and his conditioning likely isn’t quite where it should be. However, he looked 100% last week, and I’d love for him to have his own breakout game this week to gain confidence heading into Florida.
One more player I’m looking to have a better performance this week is wide receiver Arian Smith. With the emergence of RaRa and Ladd getting healthy, Smith has seen limited snaps. Last week, his blocking was poor and he dropped a pass. He seemed poised for a superstar year after massive catches against Ohio State last season. This year, he’s shown almost none of that flash. It would be encouraging to see him back to making explosive plays.
As a note, over the past three games, Carson Beck has increased his average depth of target by nearly 3 yards from the previous 3 games. His yards per attempt have increased from 8.3 to 10.1 in that stretch. Something tells me he’ll let it loose.
The Dawg Defense
Defensively, Georgia has one major challenge. Can it keep the streak alive? Vandy hasn’t scored a touchdown against UGA since 2018. You read that right. The Commodores haven’t scored a point against UGA in the last two years.
Inside linebacker Pop Johnson had his best performance of the year so far last week, and I hope he’ll build off of that this week. I’m more looking forward to seeing what the rotation of defenders looks like once Georgia has this game in hand. Historically, Kirby Smart is more willing to rotate guys in on defense while the game is still undecided before rotating in offensive backups.
Inside linebacker CJ Allen should get extended playing time and this game presents a great opportunity for growth for him and others. Defensive back Julian Humphrey might get more snaps as well, and the word on the street is that he’s pushing Daylen Everette in practice. Nothing against Everette, but Humphrey is long, fast, and plays nasty. He’s hard to keep off the field.
I’d also love to see LB Jalon Walker have a big presence in this game. While Smart insists that Walker is an ILB, he is used primarily to rush the passer on third downs from the edge. Last week he got in the second half against Kentucky and immediately wreaked havoc. I’ve been high on Walker for awhile, just want to see him put it together. I’ll also look for linebacker Xavian Sorey to get some run this game. Sorey flashes his remarkable athleticism, but also still commits too many boneheaded plays to consistently see the field.
All of that to say, I think Kirby uses this game as a growth moment for his defense in particular. I expect he’ll rotate plenty of guys in the front seven.
As of now, the line for this game is 32.5 points. On one hand, Georgia should score as many points as it likes in this game and historically dominates Vandy on defense. In that sense, 32.5 seems an easy cover. UGA also has had only one fast start this year, last week. Turnovers have plagued the Dawgs, and games are getting shorter. In that sense, 32.5 seems like a lot if all it takes is a slow first quarter to stop the Dawgs covering.
I think Kirby really wants to get young guys ready in this game, and that requires an early lead. I also suspect he’ll be fine airing it out and sending a message to all the recruits out there that UGA can in fact put together an impressive passing performance. UGA’s scoreless/touchdown-less streak likely ends, but Georgia still covers.
Dawgs Win: 48-7