Head-to-Head: Vanderbilt vs. Georgia

Vanderbilt travels to Athens, Ga., to face the No. 5 ranked Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday. VandyMania.com compares different critical team areas of Vanderbilt and Georgia and indicates which team has the edge. We also predict the final score.

Vanderbilt passing offense
Georgia passing defense

Although things could change before kickoff on Saturday, the Commodores look poised to start Wyoming transfer Austyn Carta-Samuels in his first SEC game against the Bulldogs. As a freshman in the New Mexico bowl, Carta-Samuels' lone interception of the night gave Fresno State an 11 point lead in the fourth quarter. The freshman signal caller quickly responded with a 30-yard completion and his second touchdown pass of the game. A fumble by Fresno State's Ryan Matthews gave Carta-Samuels another chance and he marched Wyoming on a 19 play, 54 yard drive resulting in a game tying field goal that sent the game to overtime. After neither team scored in the first overtime and a pass interference penalty, Carta-Samuels connected on a 13-yard touchdown pass to David Leonard to win the game.

In his first start as a Commodore against Presbyterian, Carta-Samuels was 13 for 20 for 195 yards and a touchdown. Though the opponent was not the quality of the first two games of the year; like coach Franklin said, "Doing it against Presbyterian is one thing, doing it against Georgia is another."

If things don't go well for Carta-Samuels, then senior Jordan Rodgers will again try to create the spark he helped bring to the offense in 2011. In his starts against South Carolina and Northwestern, Rodgers was 30 for 56 for 431 with 2 touchdowns and an interception. Rodgers' long pass of the year was a 78-yard touchdown to Jordan Matthews who came across the middle, blazing by the Gamecock secondary.

Junior receiver Jordan Matthews leads the 'Dores with 18 catches for 276 yards and two touchdowns. Chris Boyd is second on the team with 11 catches, while redshirt freshman Josh Grady adds 4 receptions for 66 yards.

The Bulldog secondary ranks 43rd in the country, allowing opponents 200 passing yards per game with two interceptions. Strong safety Shawn Williams leads Georgia with 25 tackles and 2 pass break ups. Sophomore Damian Swann is second among the secondary with 18 tackles and a pass break up.

The Georgia secondary has been without free safety Bacarri Rambo over the first three games. Redshirt sophomore Connor Norman has played in his absence with 10 tackles.

Vanderbilt rushing offense
Georgia rushing defense
Vandy advantage
Senior running back Zac Stacy leads the Vanderbilt running game with 258 yards and a touchdown. Last week against Presbyterian Stacy rushed 8 times for 174 yards. On the first play of the game, Stacy took off on 86-yard touchdown run. True freshman Brian Kimbrow is now listed as second on the depth chart behind Stacy. In Week 3 Kimbrow ran for 137 rushing yards on 14 carries, with an untouched 49-yard touchdown run. Redshirt junior Wesley Tate has run for 43 yards rushing on 17 carries with two scores.

The Georgia rushing defense ranks 57th in the country allowing 145 rushing yards per game. Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones sat out last week against Florida Atlantic due to a groin injury. The junior leads the defense in most categories while only playing in Weeks 1 and 2. Inside linebacker Alec Ogletree has also been serving a suspension for violating team rules and sophomore Amarlo Herrera has led the linebackers with 22 tackles and a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Defensive end Abry Jones leads the defensive line with 9 tackles and 4 quarterback hurries. Nose tackle Jordan Jenkins adds 9 tackles, 4 quarterback hurries, and a fumble recovery--the senior will try to disrupt the Vandy offense.
Georgia rushing offense
Vanderbilt rushing defense

The Bulldog rushing offense fields a trio of young running backs led by true freshman Todd Gurley; Gurley leads the team with 276 rushing yards, 4 touchdowns, and 514 all purpose yards. Georgia's offense ranks 28th in the country averaging 222.67 rushing yards per game. If one freshman isn't enough, the Bulldogs have Keith Marshall who is second on the team with 182 yards and a 5.7 yards per rush average.

The Commodore's rushing defense is tied for 58th allowing opponents 147.67 rushing yards per game. In the opener against South Carolina, middle linebacker Chase Garnham led the 'Dores with 9 tackles, a tackle for loss, and a sack. Outside linebacker Archibald Barnes has been good defending the pass with 19 tackles, 2 pass break ups, and 2 passes defended. Opposite Barnes, Karl Butler has been good defending the run with 12 tackles, including 4½ for a loss, and a forced fumble.

Vandy defensive ends Johnell Thomas and Walker May have top the defensive line with 2 tackles for a loss each. May adds a sack and a quarterback hurry, while Thomas has tallied 10 tackles.

The 'Dores gave up 205 rushing yards to South Carolina while allowing Marcus Lattimore to rush for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Gamecock signal caller Connor Shaw was punished but still burned the Vanderbilt defense with his legs--nearly eclipsing the 100-yard mark himself.

In Week 2 against Northwestern, Vandy was unable to contain junior Venric Mark who ran for 123 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. For the second straight week opposing quarterbacks made things happen with their feet. Northwestern's signal caller Kain Colter was second for the Wildcats with 66 yards rushing and a rushing touchdown.

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray does not appear to be too much of a threat on his feet with a net of minus 4 yards rushing.
Georgia passing offense
Vanderbilt passing defense
Georgia's Aaron Murray led passing offense ranks 24th in the country averaging 295 yards passing per game. Murray enters the game with Vanderbilt completing 63.8 percent of his passes, with 842 yards passing, and 8 touchdowns.

Redshirt sophomore Michael Bennett leads the Bulldog receivers 17 receptions for 265 yards and two touchdowns. Bennett is second on the team behind Gurley, averaging 88.3 all-purpose yards per game.

Senior receiver Marlon Brown is second on the team with 150 yards receiving and two touchdown grabs. Brown had career-best 121 receiving yards on four receptions for two touchdowns against the 'Dores in 2011.

Tavarres King is third among the Georgia receiving corps, with 10 catches for 211 yards and two touchdowns. King also a good day against the Vandy secondary last year with 5 catches for 57 yards and a touchdown.

The Commodores are currently ranked third in the country in passing defense, allowing opponents 100 yards passing per game.

Strong safety Javon Marshall leads the Vanderbilt secondary with 19 tackles including one for a loss, two passes broken up, and a forced fumble. Free safety Kenny Ladler is second among the secondary with 16 tackles, a sack, an interception, and two passes defended.

Trey Wilson and Andre Hal round out the secondary at cornerback. Last week against Presbyterian during their only scoring threat of the game, Wilson returned an interception in the end zone 100 yards for a Commodore touchdown.
Special Teams
Vandy advantage
Place kicker Marshall Morgan's first college field goal came from 52 yards at Missouri. The true freshman kicker is 3 for 4 in field goal attempts with a miss coming in the Week 1 against Buffalo. Freshman Marshall Morgan punts for the Bulldogs with a 40.9 yards per punt average and a career long of 57 yards in the opener.

True freshman Todd Gurley returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score against Buffalo. Without the long return in the opener, Gurley averages 23.83 yards per kickoff return. Damian Swann returns punts for Georgia with a 7.4 yard per punt return average and a long return of 30 yards against Buffalo.

Andre Hal and Brian Kimbrow have handled the kick return duties for the 'Dores with Kimbrow getting most of the action lately. Kimbrow averages 26.8 yards per kick return and has seemed a miss away from breaking a big one. Jordan Matthews has held down punt return duties for the 'Dores lately with an average of 12 yards per punt return. Matthews is not even listed on the depth chart as a punt returner this week with receivers Jonathan Krause and John Cole listed ahead of him.

Vandy punter Richard Kent ranks 18th in the country averaging 44.73 yards per punt, with a long punt of 67 yards in Week 2 against Northwestern. Commodore place kicker Carey Spear is 7 for 8 from field goal range with a sole miss of 51 yards against South Carolina.
Georgia advantage

The Bulldogs got off to a bit of a sluggish start against Buffalo when they gave up 3 sacks and 23 points in their opener. The high powered passing offense led by signal caller Murray should be the first real test for the top ranked Commodore pass defense. It'll sure be loud for Georgia, who will enjoy home-field advantage in the SEC night game. Georgia opponents have scored at least 20 points each through three games against the Bulldogs. With Tennessee falling the Florida in Week 3, the South Carolina-Georgia matchup in Columbia two weeks is the key game in the east that everyone will be waiting for.

James Franklin enters the game looking for the first SEC road win of his career at Vanderbilt. Vandy's lone road win under Franklin came in the bowl clenching finale at Wake Forest in 2011. The 'Dores come into the game with a new face ready to attempt to lead the Commodore offense to consistency. Last season it took the coaches midway through the season before making a quarterback switch from Larry Smith to Jordan Rodgers--the switch who helped ignite the Commodore offense as Rodgers propelled them to a sixth win and a bowl appearance. There are still many things to prove for a Vanderbilt team that has yet to surprise someone on the road.
Georgia advantage
Georgia coach Mark Richt enters the game with an 109-38 record and 12 bowl appearances in each of his years as head coach. There are high expectations for Richt this year as the favorable schedule avoids 'Bama and LSU. Georgia has not finished a season with less than three losses since their 41-10 beat down of Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl of 2008.

In 2011 against the Bulldogs, Franklin pulled out all the stops with a fake punt, an onside kick, two halfback passes, reverses, and a blocked punt. This time around the coach is trying out a new quarterback against a top SEC opponent on the road. Something happened in practice that makes them think Carta-Samuels gives the 'Dores their best chance at winning. It won't be longer than a few quarters at Georgia to find out whether or not it was a good move.

PREDICTION: Georgia 35, Vanderbilt 27.

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