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Speaking With The Enemy: Anchor Down For What?

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Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

This is Speaking With The Enemy, a weekly feature in which we get up close and personal with a writer covering this weekend's opponent. We ask questions both mundane and spectacularly intrusive, all to help you be the most knowledgeable fan at your tailgate.

This week we talked to Christian D'Andrea of SB Nation's Anchor of Gold. They watch Vanderbilt football. Like, every weekend. These are hardened people with nothing left to lose. They also do a weekly recipe and cocktail, which may mean that I've been a Vanderbilt blogger for the past nine years and didn't even know it. Anyhow, Christian tells us what Vanderbilt has to do to pull the upset, about the general state of the post-Franklin Commodore fan base, and gives you a host of names to know:

1) Vanderbilt's defense has been a little inconsistent this season. Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason can relate. What can we expect from the Commodore D? Who are the most likely playmakers?

Christian: Vanderbilt's defense finally seemed to come together against Kentucky, and while you can point and say "...but it was Kentucky," keep in mind that this team gave up 30+ to both UMass and Temple this season. The team has a solid defensive line and the pass rush is very underrated, but Vandy's young secondaries (they've had to replace all 4 starters from last year's secondary) has been responsible more toast than a fire at the Wonder bakery. Their inability to handle one-on-one assignments has forced coach Derek Mason to be more tentative with his defensive schemes this season.

The players you'll hear called on Saturday should be some combination of the following; Adam Butler and Vince Taylor (big, disruptive D-Linemen), Caleb Azubike and Stephen Weatherly (athletic pass rushers), and Nigel Bowden (prototypical ILB). If backup CB Darrius Sims sees extended time as a nickelback, he'll probably return something for a touchdown because he's our leading scorer right now.

2) What is the mood surrounding Derek Mason's tenure at Vanderbilt? Obviously he's in no immediate danger of firing, but are Vanderbilt fans really worried about the product they have seen so far, or do they view it as a necessary part of the growth process with a new staff?

Christian: We had people calling for his head after two weeks which, while discouraging, certainly made us feel like a real SEC fanbase. The cause for concern hasn't been the losses or even the defensive play - there's plenty of potential in his 3-4 defense after a pilot year in 2014 - but the fact that this team has just been painful to watch on offense. With 0 offensive touchdowns in 60% of their games this year, much of the fan frustration has been aimed at Mason's OC Karl Dorrell.

There have been flashes, and performances like the team had against UMass and South Carolina have staved off worries...for now. Another touchdown-less showing against UGA will add more fuel to the fire that's slowly creeping towards Dorrell's butt.

3) Obviously things have not shown in the win column yet, but certainly there has to be something that Vanderbilt has done well this season. What is that thing?

Christian: Kick returns, those have been pretty good. Darrius Sims was lightning on special teams as a true freshman, but he finally broke through two weeks ago with a pair of kickoff return touchdowns against South Carolina. Additionally, this team has been solid along the defensive line and amongst their ILBs - Bowden and Darreon Herring.

Oh. Ralph Webb. Webb has been a revelation at tailback in his first year of eligibility. He's a complete back who runs with power and makes solid cuts towards daylight despite subpar blocking around him.

4) At his Tuesday press conference Mark Richt said he "has no idea" who will start at QB for the Commodores. Can you enlighten us, and him?

Christian: Nope! It all comes down to whether or not Patton Robinette has recovered from a possible concussion that he sustained against USC. Robinette will start if he practices before Thursday. If not, it will be true freshman Wade Freebeck. Freebeck was last seen being used to gauge the oil reserves under Commonwealth Stadium by the UK defense. He's tough, but if Vandy's pass protection doesn't improve there's a chance you guys see a 3rd (or 4th) quarterback on the field for the 'Dores on Saturday.

Based on Mason's comments in Tuesday's press conference, this team seems prepared to push through with Freebeck. That's bad news for Robinette's health, but we'll see. {editor’s note: Subsequent to Christian providing these answers it was announced that Freebeck is in fact the guy this weekend.}

5) What does Vanderbilt need to do to pull the upset?

Christian: They'll need to keep whomever is playing quarterback upright long enough to make some plays - and they'll need to establish their ground game effectively in order to take some of the pressure off of an otherwise ineffective passing game. Vandy moved the ball well against UMass and USC thanks to the running of Webb and Jerron Seymour and a midrange aerial attack that moved the ball to guys like Steven Scheu and CJ Duncan. They'll need to do the same on Saturday in order to win a shootout in Athens.

6) Can you give us a score prediction? As always, we invite you to do so by including necessary if/then qualifiers.

Christian: Let's go back to #5. I'm not sure this Vandy team can stop UGA's offense with any consistency, and Hutson Mason is due for a big day thanks to the Commodores' young secondary and the return of some of his top receiving targets. That means that Vanderbilt will have to match them in a high-scoring affair...and this is a team that has failed to score an offensive touchdown in 60% of their games so far.

If Robinette starts, Vandy can put some points on Georgia and sustain drives long enough to give the defense a breather: UGA 34, Vandy 17.

If Freebeck starts, and this offensive line fails him like they did against Kentucky...hoo boy: UGA 41, Vandy 9.

Our thanks to Christian for his incisive answers to questions which, for a Vandy fan, don’t have great answers right now. My sense is that this game will be closer than Christian anticipates, and like him I have notice dthat Sims is truly a threat every time he touches the ball. Also look for Ralph Webb to pick up at least one first down after Bulldog defenders think they have him stopped. You’ve been warned. Until later . . .

Go ‘Dawgs!!!