October 19, 2013
Overall Record: 53-18-2
Last 10 Meetings: 9-1
Richt vs. Vanderbilt: 11-1
There are a couple of different ways to look at Vanderbilt's 2012 season. There's no denying that it was one of the most successful seasons in school history. 9-4 is a good season anywhere – it's like winning the Super Bowl at Vandy. The Commodores had a winning record in the SEC. The program won a bowl game – another major step forward. Vanderbilt ended the season on a seven-game winning streak (there have been seasons in a row where Vanderbilt hasn't won seven games). Vandy also did a solid job of recruiting this winter.
The flip side of that – the only team with a winning record Vanderbilt beat was NC State, who ended the year 7-6. Vandy jumped South Carolina, but couldn't hang on. Florida, Georgia and Northwestern all beat Vanderbilt by double digits.
So here we sit – Vanderbilt at a modern-era all-time high, and it is still trying to figure out how to get past fourth place in the SEC East.
Traditional rivals Tennessee and Kentucky have been in shambles of late, but the Vols won't be bad forever. So how does Vanderbilt capitalize on its momentum? The only way is to make the jump past one of the powers in the East right now – Florida, South Carolina or Georgia – near the top of the standings. Vanderbilt isn't going to win the SEC East – that's not going to happen – but it can, in theory, move into the top three. That's working under the assumption that Tennessee doesn't bring itself back to life this fall, and that Missouri will still be confused by the SEC – neither scenario is likely, so Vandy has an opening.
The problem is, as always, the schedule.
Vanderbilt won't beat Florida, Texas A&M and South Carolina all on the road. Winning one of those games would be a massive step forward. Those games alone pretty much end any chance to win the East. But there is opportunity to surprise a couple of SEC teams along the way. Georgia's visit to Nashville seems an obvious upset candidate for Vandy as it is the only conference power that visits Nashville this season. It also comes after a week off for Vanderbilt.
But the Commodores should be wary of a few games themselves. The season opener against Ole Miss will be a challenge. As will the Missouri game. But the trip to Knoxville might be the trap as the Vols will be looking for blood.
Vanderbilt player to watch:
This will likely be Carta-Samuels first season as Vanderbilt's starter, but the redshirt senior is no stranger to playing in the SEC. Carta-Samuels played in six games last year, and completed 14-of-24 passes for 208 yards, including a touchdown. One of those games was against Georgia, when Carta-Samuels had to relieve Jordan Rodgers after the dominating defeat got out of hand.
Carta-Samuels played two seasons at Wyoming before transferring to Vanderbilt in 2011. While there he threw for 3,055 yards, a 60 percent completion rate and 19 touchdowns. Because he has the most experience among the Vanderbilt quarterbacks, he's likely to earn the nod to start in week one.
Experience is Carta-Samuels' most impressive facet, which is why he'll be a threat in 2013. He said that transitioning into his new role has been an emotional ride, but that he's confident in himself as a leader. Vanderbilt lost its most explosive player, Zac Stacy, to the NFL, which means the Commodores will lean more on Carta-Samuels this fall.
What the Dawgs must do:
Considering how difficult the last few trips to Nashville have been, Mark Richt should do his best to remind his players just how tough it can be to win there. Vanderbilt is a rather difficult place to play because the atmosphere is always about a third of what the rest of the SEC it like. In a lot of ways Georgia falls asleep at Vanderbilt. They might think they can go in roll the ball out there, and that Vandy will roll over and die. For the most part Vanderbilt does its part and loses, but they rarely roll over.
Inside the numbers:
For all the headway the Commodores have made in the SEC, none of it has come against Georgia (or Florida). The Bulldogs are 16-1 against the Commodores since 1995. Only the Gators can boast a more thorough domination. Vanderbilt hasn't beaten Florida since 1988 and has lost 22 straight since.
Virtually None. The Dawgs wanted Tucker's Josh Dawson last year, and took him on Signing Day. Franklin, in his usual gentlemanly manner, made a spectacle of it. Vanderbilt must be proud.
Last year's prediction: Blast Vanderbilt off the face of the Earth… let them know from the start that this game is revenge for the way James Franklin acted at the end of the game last season. I get the feeling Georgia will be motivated for this game the way they were for the Mississippi State game in 2011 – the Dawgs took no prisoners that afternoon.
That's pretty much what happened.
2013 Media Days: Legge's Look at Kentucky
2013 Media Days: Legge's Look at Auburn
2013 Media Days: Legge's Look at Florida
2013 Media Days: Legge's Look at Vanderbilt
2013 Media Days: Legge's Look at LSU
2013 Media Days: Legge's Look at Missouri
2013 Media Days: Legge's Look at Tennessee
2013 Media Days: Legge's Look at S. Carolina