Head to Head: Vanderbilt vs. Georgia

The Vanderbilt Commodores visit Georgia on Saturday in hopes of picking up their first SEC victory of the season. VandyMania's Nate Yates evaluates the two teams in several key team areas and makes a prediction on the game's final score.

VANDERBILT PASSING OFFENSE VS. GEORGIA PASSING DEFENSE

EDGE: GEORGIA

Vanderbilt's passing offense had shown flashes of potential this season but has sputtered out so far in SEC play.  Quaterback Kyle Shurmur is 84 of 159 attempts for 837 yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions.  Vanderbilt hasn't produced a passing touchdown since the WKU game in week 4 and has yet to produce 1 in any SEC matchup.  One of the bright spots in the passing game has been the emergence of freshman WR Kalija Lipscomb, who has 200 yards on 17 receptions and two touchdowns.  Redshirt junior WR C.J. Duncan has 17 receptions for 192 yards after missing all of last season from a torn Achilles tendon.  Between those two primary targets and a capable tight end group plus WR's Caleb Scott and Trent Sherfield Vandy has some pieces to work with, but has unfortunately been unable to get the passing game clicking aside from some short bursts.  The offensive line has been reliable through the season, allowing only seven sacks through the Florida game. However, the O-line regressed some against Kentucky allowing four sacks.

Georgia's pass defense is only about on par with the Kentucky squad we faced last week.  However, that Kentucky squad was able to expose some holes in the 'Dores offensive line.  Georgia has allowed 1,491 passing yards this season and 11 touchdown passes and 21 pass breakups.  They have a capable secondary which has recorded eight interceptions this year.  That pass defense is led by DB Juwan Briscoe and FS Quincy Mauger who have each recorded two interceptions this year. Also, Georgia has four more players with one interception.  The defense as a whole has recorded 11 sacks.

VANDERBILT RUSHING OFFENSE VS. GEORGIA RUSHING DEFENSE

EDGE: EVEN

The Commodore rushing game has been one of the better-performing units Vanderbilt has fielded this season.  Led by RB Ralph Webb and RB Khari Blasingame has 883 yards on 228 attempts and nine touchdowns.  Ralph Webb has recorded 682 yards on 136 attempts and has five touchdowns, while Khari Blasingame has 184 yards on 42 attempts and three touchdowns.

While Georgia's passing defense might be on par with Kentucky, its run defense is significantly better.  Georgia has allowed only 716 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns this season.  Georgia has recovered seven fumbles this season led by CB Juwuan Briscoe with two recoveries and five others with one recovery.

GEORGIA PASSING OFFENSE VS. VANDERBILT PASSING DEFENSE

EDGE: VANDERBILT

Georgia has passed for 1,105 yards this season on 94 receptions and has eight passing touchdowns.  Freshman QB Jacob Eason has attempted 168 passes, and 86 have been completed sitting at roughly 51 percent.  He has thrown for all eight passing touchdowns and has thrown five interceptions.  Just under a third of Georgia's reception yards have come from WR Isaiah McKenzie who has 359 receiving yards and five touchdowns.  WR Terry Godwin and TE Isaac Nauta are the other two receivers who have exceeded 100 reception yards this season.  The Georgia O-line has allowed 11 sacks this season.

The Vanderbilt secondary has allowed 1,292 passing yards this season and seven passing touchdowns.  The secondary looked improved in last week’s game against Kentucky allowing only 49 yards through the air and recording one interception.  The defense has only forced five sacks this season; none occurred last week.  The secondary has four interceptions and 32 pass breakups this season.  The group is led by CB Tre Herndon with two interceptions and three pass breakups; CB Taurean Ferguson has one interception and five breakups, and star position Oren Burks has one interception and five pass breakups.  Cornerback Torren McGaster has recorded six pass breakups.

GEORGIA RUSHING OFFENSE VS. VANDERBILT RUSHING DEFENSE

EDGE: EVEN

Georgia's rushing attack has posted 1,294 yards on 269 attempts this season, averaging 4.8 yards per attempt.  They've put up 11 rushing touchdowns.  As usual, the Bulldogs have a formidable stable of runners.  Running back Nick Chubb leads the group with 546 yards on 100 attempts and five touchdowns.  Sony Michel has 341 yards on 60 carries and one touchdowns, and RB Brian Herrien has 347 yards on 50 carries and three touchdowns.

Vanderbilt has allowed 1,061 rushing yards on 219 attempts and nine touchdowns this season.  Unfortunately, against Kentucky Vanderbilt showed massive regression getting gashed by the wildcat.  Vanderbilt allowed 258 yards on 52 carries and two touchdowns against Kentucky.  The run defense clearly is effective against traditionally run styles but struggles with option or wildcat sets.  Inside linebacker Zach Cunningham has 62 total tackles and ten last week, FS LaDarius Wiley has 41 total tackles and eight last week, and SS Ryan White has 36 and nine last week.  The defense as a whole has 31 tackles for loss.

SPECIAL TEAMS

EDGE: GEORGIA

Vanderbilt's Tommy Openshaw has connected on 7-of-9 field goals setting a new long boot of 48 yards last week.  Punter Sam Loy has continued to be consistent with 34 punts for a 42.5 yard average. He has a long of 60 yards.  His punts have good hang time and are difficult to return.  Darrius Sims has 12 kickoff returns for a 27.5 yard average. He has a long return of 65 yards. Kalija Lipscomb has five punt returns for a 7 yard average, however, didn't see action in the return game last week.  Ryan White returned five punts last week for minus 10 yards and muffed two returns. Vandy's kick/punt coverage units have been sound allowing an average kickoff return of 23.1 yards and averaging two yards on punt returns.  While these units have been sound covering actual returns, the problem for the punting unit has been just getting punts off.  There were far too many blocked punts and blunders in the first half of the season.

Georgia kicker William Ham is 3-7 with a long of 29, fellow kicker Rodrigo Blankenship is 1-of-2 with a long of 27.  Punter Marshall Long has 33 punts for an average of 39.5 yards.  Isaiah McKenzie has 11 punts for 106 yards an average of 9.6 yards per return.  Reggie Davis has nine kickoff returns for 236 yards an average of 26.2 yards per return.  The coverage unit has allowed  23 yards per kick return and 6.6 yards per punt return.

The edge goes to Georgia in special teams, not because Georgia did anything to deserve it though.  More so Vandy loses the edge due to an inability for the line to protect Sam Loy (who has done a great job with an entire team running at him) and the terrible punt return situation last week.

COACHING

EDGE: GEORGIA

First-year head coach Kirby Smart is 4-2 at Georgia.  He was previously the DC at Alabama from 2008-2015.  He received the AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year award in 2012 and the Broyles Award in 2009.  In 2009, 2011, 2012, and 2015 while the defensive coordinator at Alabama the Tide won the National Championship.

Third-year Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason is 9-20 at Vandy. He previously was the defensive coordinator at Stanford and has coached as an assistant in the NFL. Mason took over coordinating of the Commodore defense following the 2014 season and in 2015 Vanderbilt had the most improved defense in the nation (FBS).

INTANGIBLES

EDGE: GEORGIA

Georgia has momentum after a Sunday win over South Carolina while Vanderbilt is mad about two close losses.  Georgia has two wins by less than three points, and the other two are by 14 or less.  Vanderbilt has three losses by seven points or less and one win by just one point.  Vandy could easily have had five wins and one loss or one win and five losses.  Georgia could easily have had five wins and one loss or two wins and four losses.  Georgia plays at home and has mostly been able to win those close games, so they get the edge.  

Prediction:  Georgia 10, Vanderbilt 9. Georgia wins this in a close game because that's how most of their wins and most of Vandy’s losses have been.  Expect the passing game to be ugly for both teams, and look for both defenses to load the box against the run.  Special teams should be ugly too. Georgia will probably put up 10 points and go 1-of-2 on field goals, while Vandy will make 3-of-4.  


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