Georgia (3-3, 2-2 SEC) vs. Vanderbilt (2-4, 0-3 SEC)
Where: Nashville, TN
When: 12:21 p.m., SEC Network
Last meeting: Georgia 24, Vanderbilt 14, Oct. 18, 2008.
Georgia: The Bulldogs’ offense has been stuck in neutral for three straight games. They mustered just three points against Tennessee last week, never moving the ball inside the Volunteers’ 35-yard line. Georgia has scored a touchdown in just one of its last 11 quarters of action, and the running game has been virtually non-existent.
Vanderbilt: Georgia’s struggles on offense are about the only thing that could make Vandy look good by comparison. The Commodores are among the worst passing teams in the country, and while tailbacks Warren Norman and Zac Stacy have made up some of the difference, Vandy still has scored just 19 total points in three SEC games so far.
Georgia: Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez may be coaching for his job this week and for the rest of the season. The vultures are circling after the Bulldogs allowed 45 points to Tennessee last week – the seventh time in their last 12 games that a team has scored at least 37 points. UGA ranks 12th in pass defense and 11th in scoring defense among SEC teams.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores can’t score, but they don’t make it easy for opponents to score either. Vandy has surrendered just nine touchdowns this season – the third-best mark in the SEC, and Georgia coach Mark Richt said the ‘Dores are virtually impossible to sustain long drives against. Linebacker Chris Marve and corner Myron Lewis are two of the SEC’s best.
Georgia: Kicker Blair Walsh booted yet another field goal from more than 50 yards out last week and is now 8-of-9 on the season and 3-of-3 from beyond 50. Punter Drew Butler leads the nation with a 44-yard net average. Meanwhile kick return man Brandon Boykin scored his second 100-yard touchdown of the season last week.
Vanderbilt: If Georgia has a distinct advantage anywhere, it’s the field position game. While Georgia is among the best punting teams in the country, Vandy has struggled on both ends. The Commodores are 109th nationally in net punting and 110th in punt-return average.
Georgia: Richt has experienced more turbulence in the past two weeks than at any time in his nine-year tenure at Georgia. For the first time, some fans have begun calling for his job, and staff shakeups at season’s end may be the bare minimum of what’s to come. But for the time being, Richt has his team focused on the task at hand, which is beating Vandy for the eighth time in nine tries.
Vanderbilt: Bobby Johnson has done a remarkable job of making the annually moribund Commodores a respected opponent in the SEC, but this just isn’t his season. Vandy has been thoroughly beaten in three SEC affairs and lost last week to Army. The celebration of last season’s bowl victory has been short-lived.
Offense: Georgia’s tailbacks vs. Chris Marve. The Bulldogs have had almost no success running the ball all season. They rank last in the SEC in rushing offense, while four different tailbacks have seen extended work. The offensive line has gotten little push, and linebackers have routinely found their way into the backfield. Marve, who leads Vandy in tackles, is one of the best.
Defense: Georgia’s secondary vs. Larry Smith. Vanderbilt hasn’t been able to throw the ball at all this season, ranking 114th nationally in passing offense. But last week, the Bulldogs made Tennessee’s much-maligned QB Johnathan Crompton look like a Heisman candidate, and another poor performance against an inferior opponent could be the death knell for defensive coordinator Willie Martinez.
Prediction: Georgia 23, Vanderbilt 17