The last time the Georgia Bulldogs and the Vanderbilt Commodores were on the same field, it ended with fireworks. Georgia head coach Mark Richt is hoping the only fireworks in this season’s game will come from the Bulldogs’ high-octane offense.
Georgia will enter this week’s game averaging 47.3 points a game and for the first time in school history having scored more than 40 points in each of its first three contests. However, getting No. 4 will not be easy. The Commodores are currently No. 16 in the nation in scoring defense at 13.3 points per game.
With his early-season success, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray has thrust himself into the Heisman conversation. Murray has completed 51-of-80 passes for 842 yards, with eight touchdown passes and two interceptions. He has also rushed for two additional touchdowns.
The Vanderbilt defense, however, has a No. 3 national ranking against the pass. Georgia will need another strong showing from their dynamic freshmen duo of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Last week, both Gurley and Marshall rushed for over 100 yards each. Gurley rushed the ball 10 times for 111 yards, with Marshall adding 10 carries for 104; both players scored one touchdown. Gurley and Marshall have complemented each other perfectly on the field this season. They have combined for 458 yards on 60 carries (7.6 YPC) and scored six total touchdowns.
While the Bulldogs have vastly improved in the running game from a year ago, they do have two offensive linemen who are currently battling injuries. Both Dallas Lee and Watts Dantzler are listed as questionable. This is problematic because Vandy is deep and quick up front and will not just sit still and let Georgia block them. Instead, they will be slanting and stunting in an attempt to produce negative plays for the Georgia offense.
The Bulldogs will need to stay out of 2nd-and-longs. The Commodores blitz 63 percent of the time on 2nd-and-long by bringing a fifth rusher. Murray has been spectacular with time to set his feet. However, when rushed, he becomes very average.
During the first three games of the season, the four wide receiver sets have been effective for the Bulldogs. However, it doesn’t give them the clear advantage against the Commodores as it has against other teams on the schedule. Vanderbilt typically has their defensive backs give the opposing receivers a cushion. As a result, Mike Bobo is likely to dial up a few quick screens to his wide receivers. Then mix in the power running game between the tackles.
Todd Gurley is likely to reach the 15-carry mark for the first time this season.
After Vandy begins to play closer to the line, Murray will begin to hit the deep pass. Since the first half of the home opener against Buffalo, Murray has been hitting his receivers in stride. In fact, the Bulldogs have seven players with a reception of over 35 yards this season.
Prediction: James Franklin will have Vandy excited to play. He knows if they are not competitive in this game, the “same old Vandy” talk will surface again. Although Georgia’s defense has struggled because of suspensions and injuries, it mostly has been against the intermediate passing game, and that isn’t an area the Commodores will be able to expose with Austyn Carta-Samuels or Jordan Rodgers.
Score Prediction: UGA 41, Vandy 20
Stat Line Prediction: Todd Gurley – 16 Carries for 135 yards and two touchdowns