(Sports Network) – FACTS & STATS: Site: Sanford Stadium (92,746) — Athens, Georgia. Television: SEC Network. Home Record: Vanderbilt 1-2, Georgia 2-1. Away Record: Vanderbilt 1-1, Georgia 0-3. Neutral Record: Vanderbilt 0-0, Georgia 0-0. Conference Record: Vanderbilt 1-1, Georgia 1-3. Series Record: Georgia leads, 50-18-2.
Vanderbilt has won two of its last three games to improve to 2-3 overall. The Commodores took a break from SEC play last weekend to best Eastern Michigan by a 52-6 final. Coach Robbie Caldwell is in his first season as the leader of the Vandy program and will certainly endear himself to the fans with a win over Georgia.
Speaking of the Bulldogs, they are led by Mark Richt, who is the longest tenured coach at his current school in the SEC. Richt’s squad entered last weekend’s clash with Tennessee at an unthinkable 1-4 overall, including 0-3 in SEC play. Not only did Georgia knock off Tennessee, the 41-14 final was proof of the talent the Bulldogs possess.
Georgia owns a 50-18-2 series advantage over Vanderbilt, including three straight wins over the Commodores.
Vanderbilt is averaging 25.0 ppg and 350.2 total ypg, and the offense is rather mediocre by most accounts. The Commodores have done a solid job of moving the ball on the ground, posting 171.6 ypg at a clip of 4.7 yards per carry. Warren Norman and Zac Stacy have combined for 568 yards and seven scores. As for the passing game, Larry Smith has connected on 56.3 percent of his throws for 793 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions.
Opponents are posting 22.0 ppg and 345.2 total ypg against Vanderbilt, which has been solid against both the run and the pass. Linebacker Chris Marve is one of the top performers for the defense, but it is unclear if he will be bale to play this weekend because of a knee injury. With eight sacks and nine takeaways, there have been some impact plays made by Vanderbilt, but certainly not enough to consider this defense elite. Keep an eye on Casey Hayward as he is responsible for four of the club’s five interceptions.
Vanderbilt produced its most points in a game since 1999 with the 52-point explosion against Eastern Michigan last week. Smith played extremely well in that game, completing 16-of-27 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns against zero interceptions. John Cole led the receivers with four catches for 103 yards and a score, while Stacy paced the ground attack with 90 yards and a touchdown. Norman reached the end zone twice for the Commodores, who finished with 558 total yards.
It is hard to imagine the Vanderbilt defense playing any better than it did in the victory over Eastern Michigan. The Commodores allowed a mere 209 total yards on 62 plays in that clash, holding the Eagles to 2.8 yards per rushing attempt and 9.5 yards per pass completion. Key for Vandy was that it managed to limit EMU to 3-of-15 success on third down conversion attempts.
Georgia rolled up 402 total yards against Tennessee last week, and this is certainly a much more dangerous offense now that wideout A.J. Green is back from suspension. One of the nation’s finest pass-catchers, Green made six catches for 96 yards and a touchdown while drawing constant double teams by Vol defenders. Aaron Murray, the quarterback of the Bulldogs, completed 17- of-25 passes for 266 yards with two scores and no picks. Georgia kept possession of the ball for nearly 35 minutes and scored on all six of its trips to the red zone.
The Bulldogs played tremendous defense against Tennessee, limiting the Vols to 269 total yards, including just nine net rushing yards on 26 attempts. That performance against the run was without question the biggest factor in the blowout. Georgia came up with three takeaways, including a pair of fumble recoveries, and allowed Tennessee to reach the red zone just twice all afternoon.
Through six games, Georgia is generating 27.5 ppg and 370.0 total ypg, and Green has played in the last two contests. He has already recorded 13 catches for 215 yards and three scores, while Murray has passed for 1,366 yards and 10 touchdowns with three interceptions. As for the ground attack, Washaun Ealey paces a balanced attack.
Opponents are scoring 20.3 ppg against the Bulldogs, who are yielding just 315.2 total ypg. Clearly, Georgia has played strong defense, as those numbers are not indicative of a 2-4 team. The Dawgs have posted 14 sacks, a solid total, and there have been nine takeaways registered. Clearly, there is room for improvement on third down, as foes are making good on 43 percent of their conversion attempts.
Go with Georgia in this game, as it will take care of business at home. Green will be a top-10 NFL Draft selection and should once again show his talents this weekend.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Georgia 27, Vanderbilt 14
October 16, 12:21 p.m. (et)