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Too Much Information: Vanderbilt (The Running Game)

Earlier this evening, I let you know about the Vanderbilt passing game. Next up to be broken down is the ground game, about which I will, as always, endeavor to provide you more than a dollop of data, more than an increment of insight, but instead . . . Too Much Information.

No Commodore is listed among the top ten rushers in the S.E.C. Vanderbilt ranks tenth in the league in rushing, managing just 141.6 yards per game on the ground. How indicative is that average apt to prove of the Commies' actual performance tomorrow evening? Well, three of the bottom four rushing teams in the conference already have faced the Red and Black.

Ninth-ranked Tennessee averages 143.8 rushing yards per game; against Georgia, the Volunteers ran for 190. 11th-ranked South Carolina averages 130.7 rushing yards per game; against Georgia, the Gamecocks ran for 140. 12th-ranked Mississippi averages 110.0 rushing yards per game; against Georgia, the Rebels ran for 158. In other words, expect the Commodores to do considerably better than average against the 'Dawgs.

There are, though, some reasons for optimism. The 3.7 yards per carry averaged by the Commies are the fewest gained by any ground game in the S.E.C. . . . and 3.7 yards per carry are exactly what the Georgia defense allows. Moreover, Vandy has scored the league's second-fewest rushing touchdowns (6); unfortunately, Georgia has allowed the conference's second-most rushing T.D.s (10).

Although this will be Knowshon Moreno's first start as the Georgia tailback, he already ranks among the league's top ten rushers with 77.0 yards per game on the ground. The freshman running back averages more yards per carry than Tim Tebow and Moreno's longest run---a 50-yarder---was the longest single scamper by any of the ten top S.E.C. rushers who does not play his home games in Fayetteville, Ark.

The Commodores surrender 145.0 yards per game on the ground, but Vandy may have been exposed last weekend, when Auburn racked up 239 rushing yards, 6.1 yards per carry, and four rushing touchdowns---all season single-game highs---against the Music City Sailors. Might Georgia's ground game meet with similar success?

It might, at that. Auburn's Ben Tate averages 5.0 yards per carry and has scored four rushing touchdowns. Moreno has posted comparable numbers, gaining 5.1 yards per carry and scoring three rushing touchdowns. The Plainsmen average 161.7 yards per game on the ground and have scored 14 rushing touchdowns. The Bulldogs have posted comparable numbers, gaining 160.0 yards per game on the ground and scoring 12 rushing touchdowns . . . twice as many as the 'Dores have scored.

This simply has to be a major point of emphasis for the Red and Black. Georgia's passing attack was sputtering and sporadic even before Mikey Henderson's hamstring hampered his chances to contribute tomorrow, so the 'Dawgs cannot realistically expect to put up big numbers on Vanderbilt's defense through the air. To put it delicately, Brandon Miller's absence will not aid an already questionable Bulldog run defense.

With Scott Haverkamp back from injury after a three-game absence, a Georgia rushing attack that is the statistical equal of the Auburn rushing attack should be able to gouge the Commodores on the ground just as the Plainsmen did.

The 'Dawgs will be going up against a Vanderbilt linebacking corps that includes three of the Southeastern Conference's 33 top tacklers. How well or poorly the Red and Black fare in their efforts to run on the 'Dores will go a long way toward determining the outcome.

That gives you the low-down on the running game. Stay tuned for a look at the various other data that may have some bearing on tomorrow's contest. . . .

Go 'Dawgs!