Friday, October 17, 2008

Headed to Athens for Vandy

Ahhhh Homecoming. The one game every year that is put on the schedule as a definite "W." It's built as a feel-good day for all of the alumni to drift back into town and fall in love with the school all over again. There are events to honor former athletes and scholars. There are fundraisers. There are scores of drunken college kids running around, causing the nostalgic among us to recall our own collegiate days with fuzzy warmth - and the cynical among us to simply wish we were still in school. The weekend is built to be one of no worries, just happy memories and a decent game where the rich alumns who sent their less-talented boys to UGA despite being told they would have to walk-on, can see these 4th and 5th stringers see some action.

Well, this ain't your grandaddy's homecoming. Vanderbilt has been a thorn in the side of the SEC majors for years. While they haven't always been incredible at getting the win, they've damaged many a team's pride...and pulled the occasional upset. I think all Dawg fans remember well the pain from the 2006 loss to Vandy in Sanford. Unfathomable. Sure, it was a down year for UGA...but that's no excuse. The guys are smart, yes...but not as talented as the bohemoths who choose to wear the Red and Black. So, there's no good reason that Vandy should have outplayed us. And, there's no good reason that we needed a miracle fumble on a "would-have-been-game-winnning" fourth quarter drive in order to put us in position to win the 07 contest. Vanderbilt - a troublesome pesky little fly in the SEC ointment.

This year, they're #1 in the east heading into the midseason contest. Are you kidding me? Vandy is #1? I'm not certain, but I think that's one of the signs of the coming apocolypse...right between the sounding of the horns and the breaking of the seals. "And I heard a noise as of thunder, and a voice as of a cherub singing, 'Come and See' (though as to my memory I must admit a faltering, as it seems more likely that the voice cried - "Check this s$&t out...don't that beat all"), and I saw - Vanderbilt University was in first place in SEC football. And the beast cried out, and the people cried out, and behold a pale horse with death upon his back rode out of the darkness and into the world."

Gives me chills.

Vandy has beaten all comers. They've run ramshod through tough SEC competition and are getting upset wins all over the place. UGA is the next on their list, and at the rate that they're going, there's just no stopping them. So far, no team has been able to derail this new football monolith -

Wait....what did you say? Mississippi State? No, that's not possible...that can't be. MSU couldn't have...

SON OF A GUN! You're right. (Dukes looks around the room at the marching band, the cheerleaders, the parade grand marshal, a host of partiers) Everybody pack it up, false alarm.

Look folks, Vandy is still Vandy. Are they improved? Yes. Do they have the tools to win? Yes. Are they going to? HELL NO.

I may have gotten the score wrong in my prediction last week, but the domination of Tennessee was as complete as it's been in many years. There was a problem with FINISHING drives..something I hate to see. A few rookie mistakes by AJ green cost us 8 points. An officiating error cost us another shot at a TD. A bad route cost us an INT and a chance at 7. These things happen. They just can't happen again. Vandy is better than TN.

Let me say that again.

Vandy is better than Tennessee. If the Dawgs play sloppy against Vandy, it will cost us. Vandy has been surviving of turnovers and special teams mistakes. They've been knocking off teams by being more sound, more physical, and more fortunate. I would say that this week is a good week to turn all of that around, but MSU stole that storyline last week. So, what's left for the Dawgs?


Some ESPN analysts are calling for this week to be UGA's "coming out party"...where we have the kind of offensive awakening that FL had last week against LSU. I don't know. The coming out party last season came gainst Florida....and I'd prefer that it did again. As long as we get through the next 2 weeks with wins, I'd love to have the "Game O' Awesomeness" against the Gators. Look, I for one (and call me "not a true fan" if you want) don't hold any hatred for the Florida Gators. I don't really hate any football team out there. Maybe it's because I played and therefore hold equal respect for the guys on the other team - or maybe it's because I didn't play enough to build up anger and bitterness towards them. I dunno. Still, the fact that everyone and their mother wants to give the East to Florida because they have a weaker schedule than us is really pissing me off. They seem to say that as long as Florida can get past UGA, they're in Atlanta.


Anyway, sorry....I'll get back to that in a couple weeks, should it be a necessary argument. Back to the task at hand - Vandy.

Vandy has the #52 Rushing offense in the country. UGA has the #4 rushing defense. In three games this season, UGA has given up less than 20 yards on the ground. I doubt this will be #4. Why? Because Vandy will do something that those teams didn't do - run the QB. TN's rushing attack was pitiful before the UGA game, and it didn't get helped by our stifling D. South Carolina had no semblance of a running attack as their up-the-gut power game ran into the teeth of the Bulldogs. But Vandy, well, they've found in Mackenzi Adams a quarterback who's pretty darn good at running the ball....and pretty good at knowing when not to. He has a pretty accurate arm, and that makes him dangerous. He likes to connect on "HOW DID HE GET SO OPEN" plays. What's that? That's when he looks like he's running, so a defender comes off the receiver to make a play, then Adams pops one for fifteen to twenty yards to an open receiver. That's an especially effective tactic against an aggressive defense. So, how do we beat that? Well, MSU employed a "spy" tactic. They had a defender assigned to the QB every play. It was THAT GUY'S responsibility to take out the QB. One-on-one, man-on-man...are you better than that guy? That's a man's game - and I like our chances with the athletes we have.

Now, their tailback is a powerful runner...but I don't see him busting too many big ones up the middle...that just hasn't been a strength for too many teams. Bama did it with that outrageously good offensive line of theirs...but even they weren't incredibly effective on the ground. It was JPW's unconscious accuracy in the first half that gave them what they needed to win. Their ground game was "good enough to not hurt". I don't expect Vandy to fare quite as well. Simply put, their O-Line ain't as good.

Their D-Line, on the other hand, is VERY good. As are the linebackers. The Vandy defense loves to get sacks...and they love to get pressure. That pressure can turn into turnovers. Vandy has 3 players in the top ten of the SEC for interceptions. That ain't bad. They love to give their team a short field to play with. That may be a large part of the reason that Vanderbilt is DEAD LAST in total offense in the SEC.

That AIN'T good.

Want to hear some quick numbers?

Vandy's Defense is tenth in the league, giving up 318 ypg.
UGA's offense is first in the league, gaining 430 ypg.

UGA's D is 4th in the league, at 273 ypg.
Vandy's O is 12th in the league, at 250 ypg.

Simply put, they can't stop us, and they won't be able to move it on us - much.

But, Vandy also has a nack for pulling out surprises. Look, they're SEC players just like UGA's boys. Bobby Johnson will have them well prepared, and they will come into Sanford looking for a big win that would put them in a bowl, and put them firmly in first place in the east.

UGA won't let that happen. Dawgs win, 31-7...and I'll be in the stadium to see it!

GO Dawgs!

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