I'll be honest with you . . . I'm getting to this a little late, and, consequently, you've already gotten a lot of what you need to know about the Vanderbilt passing game from Doug Gillett and Paul Westerdawg, but, because I don't want to let down my loyal readers, I'm going to tell you what I know about what we'll see in the air in Nashville tomorrow. As always, I won't give you a splash of statistics or a modicum of minutiae, but rather . . . Too Much Information.
The two combatants' respective passing offenses are comparable, which may not offer a positive commentary on the development of Matthew Stafford and/or the Georgia receiving corps, inasmuch as the Commodores are contemplating swapping signal-callers for tomorrow's outing.
The 'Dawgs rank eighth in the league in aerial offense; the 'Dores rank ninth. The Red and Black are marginally superior in terms of completion percentage (54.5%, to Vanderbilt's 53.3%) and yards per pass (6.5, to the Commies' 6.0). Despite having a monstrous offensive weapon in Earl Bennett (about whom more forthwith), Vandy has tossed just 152 passes, tying the team with Florida for the third-fewest attempts in the league.
The Commodores lack efficiency in their passing attack, as attested to by the team's cumulative quarterback rating, which is the second-lowest in the league. Georgia is a good deal more effective through the air, having tallied ten touchdowns on forward passes while throwing just four interceptions. Vanderbilt, which has played five games (as against the Bulldogs' six) has thrown fewer T.D. passes (7) and more interceptions (6).
The aforementioned Bennett undoubtedly will be the principal target of whoever is taking snaps under center for the home team tomorrow. The junior receiver leads the conference in grabs per game and receiving yards per outing. His 41 catches, four touchdowns, and 99.8 yards per contest outpace the contributions of his teammates by leaps and bounds, as no other Commodore can claim more than ten receptions, one T.D. catch, or 26.2 yards per game.
Even so, Vanderbilt fields six different players who are averaging a dozen or more yards per catch, which closely compares to the Bulldogs' seven student-athletes who are picking up at least 11 yards per reception. Nevertheless, the Red and Black spread the ball around significantly more effectively: even subtracting the injured Thomas Brown (10 catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns) from the mix, Georgia fields seven players who have caught at least one touchdown pass, seven players who have caught at least one pass that covered 24 or more yards, five players who have caught at least ten passes, and five players who average over 22 receiving yards per game.
The Commodores average 11.3 yards per reception as a team and their longest completion went for 54 yards . . . but Vanderbilt's opponents average 11.4 yards per reception against the 'Dores and the Vandy defense has allowed a 54-yard reception, as well.
Nevertheless, the two teams are about equally adept against the pass. Georgia and Vanderbilt each allow 6.4 yards per attempt and, while the 'Dawgs have allowed the fewest touchdown passes in the S.E.C. (3), the Commies have surrendered only one more (4).
In short, Vanderbilt is as likely to beat you with the pass as to be beaten by you with the pass . . . which is to say, not very, in either case. Only offensively anemic Mississippi State and run-happy Arkansas have tallied fewer first downs on forward passes than the 43 picked up by the 'Dores, but no other defense in the conference has conceded as few first downs on pass plays as the 35 surrendered by Vandy.
Similarly, only one team in the league has allowed fewer touchdown passes in the red zone than the two given up by the Commodores. Fortunately, that lone S.E.C. squad is the one that wears silver britches: Georgia has given up only one touchdown pass inside the 20 yard line.
The one major area of concern regarding pass defense is this: Georgia has snagged a league-low two interceptions this season, while Vandy has hauled in a whopping 11 picks in five games, tying them with the L.S.U. for the most interceptions in the conference.
What makes that statistic all the more remarkable is the fact that the Commodores have had just 124 passes attempted against them. How few is that? Let me put it to you this way: if Georgia attempts 33 passes tomorrow and no other team playing an S.E.C. opponent attempts so much as a single forward pass, Vanderbilt still will have had the fewest passes attempted against it of any squad in the Southeastern Conference.
The Commies, led by cornerback D.J. Moore with a trio of picks, are intercepting almost one out of every ten passes attempted against them. Put another way, one out of every eight pass attempts completed by a quarterback facing the Vanderbilt defense has been caught by a Commodore.
On that ominous note, we turn to the running game. . . .