If You Can Dodge a Wrench
In Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story Peter La Fleur said, “I found that if you have a goal, you might not reach it. But if you don’t have one, then you are never disappointed. And I gotta tell you, it feels phenomenal.”
If there ever was a team that embodied that quote, it’s the Commodores. These lovable losers are consistently SEC bottom-feeders that provide opportunity for the rest of the league to have the rare, relaxing conference matchup. They inflate both the academic achievements of the conference, as well as the egos of the teams who dismantle them week in and week out.
Boasting a woeful 4 winning seasons over the last 40 years, Vandy doesn’t bring much to the table. Yet, they faithfully serve as Georgia’s favorite opponent to schedule for homecoming.
How to Watch
Kickoff: Saturday, October 15th at 3:30 pm EST
TV: SEC Network
The conference punching bag is led by head coach Clark Lea. Lea’s coaching profile can be found here, but I think this paragraph paints the picture pretty well.
“His debut ‘Team 1’ set the foundation for the program while ending several inherited streaks. The Commodores won for the first time in 11 games in Lea’s second game as a head coach, a victory at Colorado State that also snapped a 10-game skid on the road. Vandy followed with a victory over UCONN, their first home win in nearly two years.”
Stellar work. Lea, a Nashville native and Vandy grad, helped Notre Dame remain above average for a few years as their defensive coordinator. His perennial disappointment at South Bend must have prepared him well to take the helm at Vandy, only to see his FirstBank Stadium filled with more opposing fans than ‘Dores supporters.
Vandy seemed poised to make some waves this year after winning 3 of their first 4 games of the season. Then, Alabama and Ole Miss beat them with a combined score of 107-31. It doesn’t seem fair that the ‘Dores have to face their third top 10 opponent in 3 weeks as they play in Athens on Saturday.
Vanderbilt is led by freshman QB AJ Swann. The Georgia native took over after starter Mike Wright was benched during the loss to Wake Forest. He has thrown for almost 850 yards and 8 touchdowns this season. Better still, he has yet to throw an interception. Against Ole Miss, he went 27/38 for 281 and 2 TDS, propelling the Commodores to hang with the Rebels for the first half.
Skill Position Players
As for skill position players, Ray Davis will be the feature back used by Vandy, but he’s nothing to be overly concerned about. A solid player, but not a game-breaker. Receiver Will Shepherd leads the team in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. At 6’3, his frame must make him a threat in the red zone, as he scored 8 touchdowns already this season. He helped Vandy put away Northern Illinois with a 10 reception, 171 yard performance. Swann, Davis, and Shepherd have helped Vanderbilt double their average points per game so far this season compared to last season. Their offense has taken a leap forward this season.
Vandy also has one of the best special teams units in the nation. Perhaps all that punting practice is finally paying off. But seriously, kicker Joseph Bulovas and punter Matt Hayball are one of the best kicking duos in the nation. Hayball is 5th nationally in punting average, and Bulovas has yet to miss a kick this year.
On the defensive side of the ball, things begin to fall apart quickly. Vandy has given up over 50 points twice already this season, and 42 in another game. Their secondary is poor and is vulnerable to explosive passing plays. Under new DC Nick Howell, the ‘Dores lack talent and depth to compete with better teams. While the defense may keep teams in check for a while, by the end of the game they are susceptible give up points often and quickly.
Georgia is coming off of a convincing win over rival Auburn, but even then its offense sputtered to start of the game.
After not having run the ball to the RBU standard Georgia has established early in the season, the past 6 quarters have proven that Georgia has the potential to be a physically dominant running team. Unfortunately, as the running game has gotten explosive, the passing game has become less threatening. Stetson Bennet hasn’t thrown a touchdown in the last 3 games and only threw for 25 yards in the first half against Auburn.
Vanderbilt is the perfect team to work on improving the passing game, especially those deep throws that Bennett hasn’t been able to connect on consistently. Last week, Branson Robinson and Daijun Edwards featured as the prominent backs. However, if Kenny McIntosh is healthy, he will likely provide a better match up catching passes out of the backfield in this game. WR AD Mitchell likely won’t play much, if it all this week. Georgia hopes to have him back for the Florida game. Even in his absence, Georgia should score as many points as they like in this game if their offense finally returns to clicking on all cylinders.
Defensively, Georgia will still be down a couple of starters in DL Jalen Carter and LB Smael Mondon. Hopefully the Dawgs can still get frequent pressure through their front 4 like last week. DL Bear Alexander is progressing nicely. Hopefully he and Mykel Williams have big games. CB Nyland Green got his first action last week after missing the previous games with an injury. Look for the redshirt freshman to get some more action later in the game. I’m curious how Georgia will defend a receiver the size of Shepherd, especially if Vandy gets in the red zone.
No Injuries, Please
Beyond winning, Georgia’s main focus here is not getting anyone injured. This team is missing several key players just a couple weeks before the defining stretch of games for the season. As physical as games against Florida, Tennessee, and Kentucky will be, Georgia cannot afford to lose anyone against Vandy.
Vanderbilt has already exceeded expectations for this season in winning 3 games.
Don’t be shocked if they put up a fight for the early part of this game as they led 9th ranked Ole Miss at half last week. However, Alabama held the Commodores to under 200 yards of offense, and Georgia’s defense is fairly stout.
Georgia is favored by 38 points, and is 3-3 against the spread this season. Normally they don’t cover big spreads, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they do this week. Like most SEC coaches, Kirby Smart can be petty, and he won’t forget that Vandy cost our seniors their final home game in 2020 when they bailed on the scheduled game and the re-scheduled game.
Georgia sorts out their passing game struggles, Brock Bowers scores a couple touchdowns, and Chris Smith gets an interception.