Next Saturday night, we will be gathered together for the Second Annual Dawg Sports Sacrificial Goat Roast to watch the Georgia Bulldogs tussle with the Vanderbilt Commodores in Nashville. This is a big game, insofar as it will either build on or obliterate the momentum the Red and Black have carried with them over the course of the last several weeks.
As we prepare for the SEC East showdown, we need to take a long look at the Commodores. Here are the historical and statistical minutiae you will need to know, conveniently combined in a single fact-filled package that offers not an increment of insight, nor a dribble of detail, but, rather, Too Much Information:
The Classic City Canines lead the all-time series with the Music City Mariners with a 51-18-2 ledger that includes a 23-11-2 mark in Nashville. Since 1958, the Red and Black have gone 21-2-1 against the Commies in the Music City, where the ‘Dawgs have taken nine in a row from the ‘Dores.
Since falling to Vanderbilt in 2006, Georgia has won four in a row over the Commodores. The Red and Black have held a series winning streak of exactly four games on four previous occasions, from 1962 to 1965, 1974 to 1977, 1986 to 1989, and 1995 to 1998. Each of those became a five-game winning streak, by margins of 32-6 (in 1968, after a two-year layoff), 31-10 (in 1978), 39-28 (in 1990), and 27-17 (in 1999).
Vanderbilt ranks first nationally in interceptions, with 14 picks in five games. Georgia is tied for 13th nationally in interceptions, with eight picks in six games. Curiously, though, neither the Bulldogs nor the Commodores snagged an opposing quarterback’s aerial last Saturday.
Georgia hasn’t lost to South Carolina and Vanderbilt in the same season since 1958.
The Commodores rank tenth in the SEC in rushing offense, averaging 115.2 yards per game. This is the Music City Mariners’ strength on that side of the ball, as Vandy ranks 11th in the league in passing offense (129.2 yards per game), total offense (244.4 yards per game), and scoring offense (20.4 points per game).
Prior to last weekend, Mark Richt had led the Athenians to victory in Knoxville on three previous occasions. In each of those three seasons, Coach Richt’s club completed the Volunteer State sweep by winning in Nashville thereafter.
Georgia last lost to Vanderbilt in a season in which the Bulldogs beat Tennessee in 1973. Before that, the last time it happened was in 1923.
On Saturday night, James Franklin will become the 14th head coach in Vanderbilt history to face Georgia in his first year on the job. Believe it or not, the previous 13 Commodore skippers to cross paths with the Red and Black as rookies were a combined 6-7 against the Athenians in those inaugural campaigns.
Admittedly, four of the six first-time winners achieved that feat prior to 1904, and six of the last seven Vanderbilt coaches began their careers in Nashville with an 0-1 record against the Bulldogs, but it isn’t as though no one in Coach Franklin’s position has ever had success against Georgia.
I have watched a total of three Georgia games while sitting (or pacing) in proximity to podunkdawg. We were seated in the same section at the 2009 Oklahoma State game and at the 2010 Liberty Bowl, and, of course, we both were at the Blind Pig Tavern for the 2010 Colorado game. The Bulldogs’ record in those three games was 0-3. Yeah, if we lose this Saturday night, there’s no way in the world she and I are ever watching a game together again.
Against conference competition, the Commodores were held scoreless by the Alabama Crimson Tide, were limited to three points by the South Carolina Gamecocks, and tallied their 30 points against the Mississippi Rebels on a trio of running plays, an interception return, and a safety. In other words . . . Vanderbilt has not thrown a touchdown pass against an SEC team in 2011.
As noted above, the Bulldogs are pretty respectable in the interception department. In addition to ranking sixth nationally in total defense and twelfth nationally against the run---yes, Todd Grantham has orchestrated a defensive resurgence in the Classic City---the Red and Black field the country’s eleventh-best pass defense, permitting just 174.7 yards per game through the air, and that’s after facing Kellen Moore and Tyler Bray in the season’s first six weeks. The Georgia secondary should be able to hold the Vandy quarterback in check, though it remains to be seen which quarterback will get the call for the Commies.
2011 marks just the second autumn in Georgia football history to have seen the Bulldogs lose to South Carolina but beat Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Tennessee. The only other time that happened was in 1988, Vince Dooley’s last year on the Sanford Stadium sideline, my first quarter in Athens as a University of Georgia undergraduate, and a season in which the Red and Black beat the Commodores by a 41-22 final margin.
A loss on Saturday would be disastrous, so what matters most, of course, is that the ‘Dawgs win. That said, how they win is important, too. With the open date on the horizon and the crucial stretch run looming, Georgia needs to do emphatically against Vanderbilt what the Athenians did not do at all in their last three games; namely, put an opponent away early.
I’ve been saying for a while that the Bulldogs needed to win a close one, in order to prove to themselves they could do it. Well, they’ve done it, so now they need to open up a can on someone. Isaiah Crowell and Malcolm Mitchell need to get healthy, and none of our other starters need to get hurt, which means the Red and Black need to win convincingly and get an early start on the bye week, so Georgia can begin getting rested and ready as swiftly as humanly possible. The sooner Aaron Murray is wearing a baseball cap on the sidelines while watching Hutson Mason run the offense, the better.
For what it’s worth, the Bulldogs’ last two wins over Vanderbilt came by scores of 34-10 in 2009 and 43-0 in 2010. Georgia hasn’t won three straight series meetings over the Commodores by margins of 20 points or more since the period from 1979 to 1981. The latter season, you may recall, saw the ‘Dawgs go 10-2, with one of the two losses coming against a prominent non-conference opponent with national title aspirations despite not belonging to a major conference and the other coming against a longstanding rival from the Palmetto State in a game in which the Red and Black quarterback committed multiple turnovers. I seem to recall there being an SEC championship that season, as well.
So, yeah, we need Georgia to win this one, and it’d be better if they won it by a lot, and did so from the get-go.
My Prediction: Georgia Bulldogs 38, Vanderbilt Commodores 17.