Vanderbilt quarterback Larry Smith is not the kind of player that strikes fear into the hearts of SEC defenses. In his two appearances versus SEC opponents this season he is 33 of 83 for 281 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
He's as mediocre through the air as they come and he isn't the type of quarterback that any defensive coordinator is likely to be concerned about on any given Saturday.
That said, he will face Georgia on this particular Saturday. A team that, hate to say, has had a bad knack of making the mediocre look marvelous.
It makes you wonder if Larry Smith is thinking he can make a statement against this Georgia team too. Perhaps he can choose this game to get off the snide and reinvigorate the Vanderbilt faithful. Maybe he can suddenly find his accuracy and make it happen with his arm and his legs—have a game that is money.
If you aren't snickering at that scenario, that tells you precisely the place that Georgia football has come to this season—Larry Smith would have been a non-factor to us last season. This game used to be a given on our schedule. Now, we simply aren't sure, are we?
It has been said all week that the Dawgs are in a "must-win" situation. They have to go back to the State of Tennessee and play like gangbusters against a Vanderbilt team that, despite a better than respectable defense, has had it's troubles putting points on the board—losing 13-16 to Army last week.
Honestly, though, this isn't a "must-win" game for the Dawgs. It would be a must-win if anyone were looking for them to finish something other than 3rd in the SEC East. It would be a must-win if anyone outside of the Bulldawg Nation thought this Georgia team had a chance at finishing in the top 25. It would be a must-win if this team were playing for anything more than pride at this point.
This is hardly a "must-win" game. No, this is a "show-me" game. As in show-me what kind of fight you have left after last week's woodshed beating. Show-me that you are capable of showing up and playing your Bulldog tails off. Show-me that this is still the same red and black juggernaut that just last season was a pre-season No. 1.
Show-me that this is the kind of team that, like the 2007version, has the heart if not the talent to rally from a disappointing loss to Tennessee to run the table and finish better than anyone expects.
It's time for the Dawgs to show and prove what they are truly made of against a Vandy team that they should beat even though the Commodores are bringing the fifth ranked defense in the SEC to the table.
Three keys to victory:
Run, run, run, fast as you can...
The Vanderbilt pass defense is stellar. They aren't scared of any quarterback in the SEC so far this season and will play the passing game as aggressively as they have all season long. Why shouldn't they? All that has led to is eight interceptions for this team—good enough for second in the SEC (Alabama, Auburn, and LSU are tied for first).
They get after the ball in the secondary and senior defensive back Myron Lewis has started to heat up in recent weeks, taking over the top spot in the SEC with three interceptions in as many weeks.
This is not the game where we want to see Joe Cox chucking the ball down the field 30 plus times with nauseating results. Let this be the game that someone in our backfield starts to make it happen.
Caleb King is due back this week and he has an excellent shot to make a big statement in this game against a Vanderbilt run-defense that, quite frankly, is not good. They are near the bottom of the league in defending the run and are giving up over 170-yards on the ground per contest.
The counter to that is the Dawgs are last in rushing offense.
The Dawgs obviously have problems on the offensive line that need to be remedied before the run game can get any better but offensive line coach Stacy Searles needs to choose this game as the turning point for his guys this season—no time like the present.
Forget about sacking Larry Smith, just focus on keeping his receivers covered...
Larry Smith is not going to beat you with his arm—he's so insignificant as a passer, it would be a miracle for even the Dawgs to make him look good.
That said, he can still run with the ball. He has made his living trying to make something happen on the ground and has neared the 100-yard mark a time or two this season.
On the other hand, he also has lost at least that many yards through pressured scrambles—he's not the most elusive guy in the world and as the pocket begins to collapse, he becomes a liability to his team and that is the primary reason for his six interceptions this season.
The Dawgs needs to blanket his receivers. Abandon the soft zone coverage for a bit and concentrate on using speedsters like Brandon Boykin and Branden Smith to shut down his primary targets—Udom Umoh and John Cole.
Cole, for his part, may not be nearly as effective if he does in fact play since he is still recovering from a broken hand .
The Dawgs need to spend the bulk of their energy keying in on the run game of Vandy; the only real offensive category they have had any success in this season. They need to shut it down and force Larry Smith into making a decision.
Vandy is not the kind of team that can play catch-up once they are down by a score or more. They simply do not have the personnel or the experience to keep up with any team in the SEC—even Georgia.
What they do have is an opportunistic defense that has a knack for making good quarterbacks look bad if he underestimates their prowess—let's not play that game.
Forget about that other Tennessee game...
This is the most important thing the Dawgs can do this week. Leave the Saturday Tsunami of Neyland behind. That game is over. Done. Finished. The Vols got their win and the Dawgs and their fans have to live with that until they come to our house next season—a game that will be even more interesting in light of Lane Kiffin's post-game comments .
That said, that loss has nothing to do with this game. The Dawgs season needs to begin now and what most fans want to see is something that resembles change on both sides of the ball. The stuff that isn't working (zone coverage, poor run blocking, poor effort in the secondary, poor special teams coverage on kickoffs, etc.) needs to start getting phased out.
The Bulldawg Nation is ready to see progress. Period. It doesn't matter if the progress comes against a lesser-tiered opponent or not, it has to start somewhere.
We already know the Commodores are ready, they are even asking fans to "blackout" the Dawgs for this one—it's their homecoming game and they are not going to just hand over the "w" to the Dawgs.
Georgia cannot get caught sleeping and looking ahead to Florida post-bye. That would be a mistake—this game against Vandy is the only one that matters. This is the one that will bring about a better idea of where we are headed now that we have been embarrassingly exposed.
It's time for this Georgia Bulldog team to do what they didn't do last week and what they haven't truly done all season: "show-us" what you are made of guys....sic em'.
Final Score: Georgia Bulldogs 27, Vanderbilt Commodores 13