The No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs host the 1-2 Vanderbilt Commodores Saturday night in Athens. A few years ago, that’s all you’d have to say and the Georgia faithful would be ready to chalk up a W for the Dawgs before the kickoff. But this year, don’t sleep on the Commodores.
First of all, under second-year head coach James Franklin, Vanderbilt is a better football team than it’s been in a long while. Franklin is the kind of coach that knows how to get more from less talent, and that’s essential for a program like Vanderbilt to compete in a conference like the SEC.
And don’t let Vandy’s record fool you. This is a team that could easily be 3-0.
In Week 1, the Commodores played South Carolina down to the wire and, frankly, were cheated—there’s no nice way to put it—out of a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter after one of the worst no calls I can remember. South Carolina’s defensive back D.J. Swearinger clearly grabbed wide receiver Jordan Matthew’s arm on a fourth-down play that would have kept a potential game-winning drive alive.
Vanderbilt lost another heartbreaker in Week 2 to still undefeated Northwestern. This was a game that was tied late into the fourth quarter. The wheels came off for Vandy after a questionable call on what appeared to be an incomplete pass to Rashad Lawrence kept a Northwestern drive alive and led to a tie-breaking field goal. The ‘Dores promptly turned the ball over on the next drive and Northwestern was able to ice the game with a late touchdown.
On to Week 3, where the Commodores took out their frustrations on Presbyterian, dismantling the Blue Hose to the tune of 58-0. Quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels, a Wyoming transfer, started in place of Jordan Rodgers and obviously did not disappoint in his Vanderbilt debut.
Yes, the Commodores have issues, but they’re clearly not as bad as their record might indicate.
Still, the Bulldogs are way more talented and should easily handle the Commodores at home, right? Probably, but one easily could have said the same thing last season, and Georgia barely eked out a 33-28 victory in Nashville.
Plus, I’m sure we all remember the heated post-game confrontation between Franklin and Georgia’s defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham. Don’t think for a second that the Commodores have forgotten. Make no mistake, Vanderbilt will come ready to play Saturday night.
So what this adds up to is a Vanderbilt team hungry for a signature victory, playing with a chip on its shoulder after two close losses already this season, and a Georgia team with a habit of starting slow in the first half of games so far this season.
If Georgia has another slow start on Saturday night and lets Vanderbilt feel like it has a chance, there could be trouble brewing in Athens. Yes, Georgia’s MO has been to have strong second halves while Vanderbilt has had a hard time closing games out. But if there’s anything that college football fans know with a certainty, it’s that anything can happen on any given Saturday.
Now, do I think Vanderbilt realistically has a chance to come to Athens and knock of the Dawgs? No. But do I think Georgia fans would be remiss to take this game lightly? Absolutely.
Bulldog Nation, I know it would be easy to look past the perennially bottom-dwelling Commodores, but beware. This game may be a lot closer than some people think.