Where: Sanford Stadium, Athens
When: 12:21 p.m.
TV: SEC network
Last meeting: Georgia won, 34-10, in 2009.
Georgia's run game will be quite a curiosity, with Caleb King serving the first of his two-game suspension. Washaun Ealey gets the chance to show what he can and should get the majority of carries, although head coach Mark Richt said on WSB radio on Friday that backup Carlton Thomas (hamstring) has a pretty good chance of playing. That lessens the chance that Ken Malcome have his redshirt taken off.
Vanderbilt is yet another team with an athletic quarterback, which has given Georgia's defense a lot of problems this year. Larry Smith has rushed for 247 yards in five games, but he's also lost 106, thanks to being sacked 14 times. Tailback Warren Norman, averaging more than six yards a carry, is dangerous in space. But the Commodores haven't really shown much in the passing game this year.
Georgia's big problem has been on third-and-long, and if it's a problem again against Vanderbilt, and its weak passing game, that will say a lot. Still, the Bulldogs should get a good push on the line, with Justin Houston standing a good chance of extending his SEC sack lead.
Vanderbilt's pass defense ranks second in the SEC, so that should be a challenge for Aaron Murray and company. The Commodores' run defense seems susceptible to whoever the Bulldogs have carrying the ball, as the Commodores rank 11th in the SEC, yielding 183.8 yards per game. But Vanderbilt is set to get back defensive tackle Adam Smotherman, a senior who missed the first five games after a spring ACL injury. Junior middle linebacker Chris Marve, probably the Commodores' best defensive player, is also set to play after getting his knee scoped two years ago.
Georgia's kick coverage, the best in the SEC, will be tested against Norman. Kick returner Brandon Boykin seems poised to break a long one soon. Kicker Blair Walsh has been among the SEC's best, and punter Drew Butler is approaching that status again.
Teams tend to kick away from Norman, who is averaging 30.2 yards per kick return. John Cole is the main punt returner, and has a 54-yarder to his credit this season. Vanderbilt's kicking game has been a question, with Ryan Fowler only trying four field goals, making three, all inside the 40. Punter Richard Kent has had a lot of work, and done a solid job (six punts of 50-or-more yards, and 15 of 36 inside the 20).
Richt decided to follow last week's physical practices with a more normal slate this week. Some of the heat came off Richt and his staff this week after beating Tennessee, and beating Vanderbilt – a two-touchdown underdog – would put off the naysayers another week. But a repeat of the 2006 upset, or even a close Bulldog win, would resume the hot seat talk.
Vanderbilt's Robbie Caldwell took over in July after Bobby Johnson's sudden retirement. Caldwell's only other head coaching experience had been in high school, and that was a baseball team. But he's already equaled the Commodores' win total from last year.
Georgia WR A.J. Green vs. Vanderbilt CB Casey Hayward. Green faced solid cornerbacks against Colorado and Tennessee, but there's a chance Hayward is even better. The junior from Perry leads the SEC with four interceptions, and his presence is a big reason Vanderbilt's pass defense has been so good.
Vanderbilt RB Warren Norman vs. Georgia's outside defenders. If Norman can get space he could break some long runs. So it will be up to OLBs Justin Houston and Darryl Gamble and the safeties to guess right on pass-vs. run, and the cornerbacks like Brandon Boykin to wrap up when Norman comes their way.
Prediction: Georgia 34, Vanderbilt 17.