Keys to the Game

Josh Kendall sizes up Saturday's Georgia/Vanderbilt matchup

No. 4 Georgia (5-1, 3-1 SEC) at Vanderbilt (1-6, 0-3 SEC)
Kickoff: 2 p.m. ET
Stadium: Vanderbilt Stadium (39,773)
Tickets: Available via or or by calling 1-877-448-2639
Kickoff weather: High of 66, low of 41, partly cloudy, 10 percent chance of rain
Series: Georgia leads 44-17-2
Odds: Georgia favored by 24
Georgia -- Probable: RB Tyson Browning (back), LB Arnold Harrison (shoulder), DT Darrell Holmes (shoulder), DE David Pollack (turf toe); Out: WR Fred Gibson (knee), WR Michael Johnson (shoulder), QB D.J. Shockley (knee), DT Kedric Golston (shoulder), WR Sean Bailey (hamstring), RB Tony Milton (leg), DE Preston Pannell (shoulder), DT Dale Dixson (knee). 
Vanderbilt -- Probable: C Steven Brent, OG Mac Pyle (ankle), FB Zeke Brandon (shoulder); Questionable: OT Kenan Arkan (ankle), TE Curtis Brancheau (ankle); Out: OG Adam Dossett (mono). 

Up next: Georgia vs. UAB, Oct. 25, 1 p.m.; Vanderbilt at USC, Oct. 25, TBA


Georgia rush offense vs. Vanderbilt rush defense:
The Bulldogs haven't had a 100-yard rusher all season, and if that's ever going to change, this is the week. The Commodores have given up 100-yard-plus games to five backs in the last four games and are 94th in the nation in rush defense (184.6 ypg). Still, Georgia may not give any back enough carries to gain 100. Running backs coach Ken Rucker said he expects his top three backs to rotate just like they did against Tennessee, when they got between five and 13 carries each.

Vanderbilt rush offense vs. Georgia rush defense:
The Commodores rushed for 234 yards last year against Georgia. They were the only team with more than 200. This year's Vanderbilt team is averaging just 140.4 yards per game on the ground, though, and the Bulldogs are eighth in the country against the run (78.8 ypg). The Commodores will try the option, which has given Georgia trouble in the past, but the Bulldogs held Tennessee to 2.3 yards per carry last week and Vanderbilt's running game is not nearly as good Tennessee's.

Georgia pass offense vs. Vanderbilt pass defense:
The Bulldogs appear to be opening up their passing game. They threw the ball eight different players and got 11 catches out of non-wide receivers against Tennessee. It didn't add up to big yardage, a modest 228 through the air, but it made for consistent offense and a season-high in points. The Commodores are in the top half of the SEC's pass defense standings, and cornerback Dominique Morris has two interceptions.

Vanderbilt pass offense vs. Georgia pass defense:
Jay Cutler is the latest in what seems to be a long line of plucky Commodore quarterbacks who come to the school hoping to turn it around and leave with a few thousand passing yards and not many wins. Georgia coach Mark Richt is a fan of Cutler, a sophomore, who is already eighth on the team's career passing yardage chart with 2,945 yards. He is much improved over last year, Vandy coach Bobby Johnson said.

Special Teams:

Georgia continues to struggle covering and returning kickoffs. The Bulldogs are ninth in the league in kick coverage and gave up 104 kickoff return yards to Tennessee last week. That was 43 more yards than the Vols gained rushing. Georgia is last in the league in kickoff return yardage (16.3 per return). Wide receiver Fred Gibson may return kickoffs today, depending on how his tender left knee feels. Vanderbilt's kicking game isn't much stronger. They are 11th in kick return yardage (18.2) and place-kicker Tolga Ertugrul is 4 of 7 on field goal attempts.

Although this would be the perfect game to overlook, Georgia's players haven't shown a tendency to do that under Richt. Richt says his players simply like playing football, and they only get 12 or 13 chances a year to do it. Georgia's offense needs to get confidence in its newfound rhythm, and its defense just seems to really enjoy pounding opponents, this game could get ugly. That's a bad combination for the Commodores. Georgia 40, Vanderbilt 13.

Keys to the Game:
The Bulldogs, of course, have to guard against overconfidence, not to mention sheer boredom. Unless thousands of Georgia fans decide to take advantage of the glut of tickets available for this game and drive to Nashville, the Bulldogs probably will be playing in front of a crowd of just more than 30,000. The crowd will be no more than half of the size of any other crowd this season and will consist of 70,000 fewer people than saw last week's game in Knoxville, Tenn. If Georgia can stay awake, that should be enough.

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