ATHENS — Greetings from Sanford Stadium. It’s a cloudy and cool day in the Classic City. Conditions are overcast with a gentle breeze blowing east southeast. Traffic was light coming to Sanford Stadium this morning.
It’s a pretty laid-back atmosphere overall, and the Georgia Bulldogs (4-2, 2-2 SEC) would be well-advised to not let it lure them to sleep today. While the schedule and opponent doesn’t say so, Vanderbilt (2-4, 0-3) represents a big game for Georgia. Never mind homecoming and all the pomp and circumstance that comes with it. The Bulldogs need to play well against an over-matched opponent and smooth out the many kinks that keep popping up in their game.
Think about it: Georgia really hasn’t put together a complete game yet. In fact, the South Carolina game last weekend was the first in which the Bulldogs didn’t trail the whole game. They fell behind double figures to North Carolina and Missouri, never had a chance against Ole Miss and even trailed Nicholls State in the third quarter in Week 2. And they messed around against South Carolina this past Sunday and let that become a one-score game that required fielding (and scoring on) an onsides kick to salt it away.
As for the Commodores today, there is no sugar-coating it: Their offense is terrible. Statistically, they’re even worse than South Carolina, averaging just 299 yards a game. But they do have a running game led by tailback Ralph Webb (113.7 ypg).
Defensively, Vanderbilt is good, but its numbers are a little skewed by playing some of the league’s worst offenses in South Carolina, Florida and Kentucky. What the Commodores always do well, however, is take away what their opponents best. So you can be certain that they will totally sell out to stop Georgia’s run game.
That means that it will fall on the shoulders of 6-foot-6, 242-pound freshman quarterback Jacob Eason to get the Bulldogs’ offense moving. You can understand Vanderbilt’s willingness to take that risk. Eason is coming off a 5-for-17 throwing performance that produced Georgia’s fewest yards passing yards (29) in 26 years.
Eason needs to show that he can carry that load today, because that’s what he’s likely to see the rest of the way. He needs to stand tall against pressure, know he’s going to get hit and deliver an accurate pass anyway. His completion percentage of 51.2 for the year — and that’s helped by those forward-lateral jet sweeps to Isaiah McKenzie — won’t cut it.
Similarly, Georgia needs to show improvement in all phases of its special-teams play. The Bulldogs’ kicking woes are well-chronicled, but even their once-vaunted returns game has been relatively pedestrian this season.
As ever, turnovers are the great equalizer in football and the chief catalyst in upsets. Georgia sports one of the best turnover margins in the country — plus-5 — but their penchant for gaining takeaways has been overshadowed by five interceptions and five fumbles of their own. Take care of the football and the Bulldogs should be able to take care of Vanderbilt.
A lot of interesting sights to be seen in my Facebook Live session on the field during pregame warmups, including momets with Mary Beth Smart and her grandmother, with Uga X and owner Charles Seiler, with legendary coach Frank Beamer, with beautiful sideline reporter and UGA alumnae Olivia Harlan and, of course, some insights on the team. You can watch it below: