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3 Things That Worry Me About Vanderbilt

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Now up to #5 in the polls, the Georgia Bulldogs again head north of the border to face a football team from Tennessee. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. What, me worry?

Vanderbilt v Georgia Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Here are the three things that I’m NOT worried about Saturday:

1) Pre-snap reads. Have we simplified the offense for the true freshman Jake Fromm, called in for duty earlier than expected? Yep, but we’ve been turning towards the back of the playbook steadily over the last few games as he’s progressed. Has Khakis made some poor throws with some potential accuracy issues? Sure, but he’s also hit the wide open balls, several bombs, and some terrific end zone throws. Is Fromm staring down his receivers? Absolutely, but he’s making mostly very good decisions with his pre-snap reads. He’s a smart kid with a good head for the game, and is recognizing coverages coming up to the line of scrimmage. I’ve seen several plays where he makes the quick throw to the wide-out for solid gains out of a bubble-screen; he’s simply succeeding at recognizing a DB or LB with coverage responsibility and exploiting it.

2) Vandy RB Ralph Webb. When I hear his name I think of a 1920’s American short story author, with monthly entries to Redbook Magazine. But let’s turn back to football. Webb is a great running back. The 5’10” native of Gainesville, FL seems to have been a small, but consistent thorn in UGA’s side for years. The fact that he’s a redshirt Senior may contribute to that. He holds basically every Vanderbilt rushing record (most set by his predecessor Zac Stacy, who may or may not be the same person), and broke a lot of them in his only his 3rd year of play. Guess what? He’s actually #17 in SEC career rushing history.*

Based on the 2017 season though, he’s aging like guacamole. 54 yards on 24 rushes against Middle Tennessee State; 54 yards again but on 13 rushes against Alabama A&M; 47 yards on 21 rushes against K-State; 20 yards on 6 rushes versus Alabama; and 29 yards on 11 attempts against the Gators last week. This guy is top 20 in SEC history, and he’s averaging 2.6 yards per carry in 5 games (including the 2 cupcakes)? And against our rushing defense? Nah, I’m good here.

3) Noon kick off. Why am I not worried about a noon kick-off in an opposing SEC stadium? Why am I not worried that the team will come out flat, and the Georgia fans come out sober? Because the team will be kicking off at 11:00 local (Central) time.**

Here are the three things that I AM worried about Saturday:

1) Lady Luck. I was in front of my own by-Gawd television this past Saturday for the first time all year, so I finally was able to pay close attention to a Georgia Bulldog football telecast. Here’s a few things I noted: Tennessee dropped two easy interceptions; Godwin fumbled the ball but it went out of bounds; Swift’s pass attempt could easily have been called a pick, or picked outright based on throwing the ball from his hindquarters; one of our DL slapped Dormady’s helmet almost sideways but no call. And this was only from the 1st quarter, I quit counting after that. As an example, take Tennessee’s likely most productive offensive play: a 3rd quarter 7-yard completed slant to Kelly who was lined up on the right side, poor arm tackling by UGA as they get 30+ yards after the catch, but somehow Georgia ends up with the ball.

Seriously, does anyone else not see the tremendous good fortune we’re benefitting from? This isn’t a satirical article, this is an actual, serious question. I’ve heard complaints on refereeing, but I think we’re at least even if not on the plus side from the zebras (you can’t really chart holding calls/no calls: that is like tax cheats... you could catch someone every single day if you wanted to). We’re definitely getting all the right bounces on turnovers like fumbles, and really bad hands from opposing defensive backs. I grant that if you execute better than your opponent, good things will happen even in the parts of the game you can’t control. I just dread that the law of averages has been favorable, and I don’t know when the bill is due.

2) UGA Offense. I don’t think that we’ve scored a defensive touchdown all year. And I don’t think we’ve scored a special teams touchdown all year. But both units have been outstanding, and by a combination of turnovers, effort, discipline, and sheer will kept opponents out of our end zone. Combine this with averaging 33 points a game with the ball in our hands and you would think our offense has been great.

Yet we’re only averaging 1.32 first downs per possession, good for #95 in the country. Less than 31% of our possessions end up in the red zone (#70). So how are we scoring so much? Flea-flicker touchdowns help. Scoring whenever you do reach the red zone helps a lot too. Staying in front of the sticks aids quite a bit (top 1/3 in the country in yards per first down). We also eat up the clock, being in the top quartile nationally in time of possession and average length of possession.

So we get yards on 1st down, we make big plays on offense, we score when we’re in the red zone, and we shorten the game. It isn’t exactly Fun ’n’ Gun, and more like Just Gittin’ It Done. I prefer to see some more pure domination by the offense. I would like to impose our will against an opponent on the first, say, 7 possessions with scores attached to each one, with no turnovers and no punts, and nothing to fret about come intermission. That would let everyone know, mostly me, that I have nothing to fear. Vanderbilt would be a wonderful target upon which to impart this strategy.

3) Kyle Shurmur. The Commodore Quarterback with the Funny Name. Boy is lighting it up this season (at least relative to Vanderbilt). He’s like Jay Cutler, but with talent and personality. He captured the starting job his freshman year just after the Georgia game, then went on to beat both UK and Missouri. He had a stellar sophomore season, breaking Cutler’s sophomore passing records and getting Vandy to a bowl game. And he’s not slowing down.

In the absence of a running game (see Ralph Webb above), the Dore Offense has fallen on Shurmur’s 6’4” shoulders. In 2017: he threw for just under 3 bills and 3 touches against Middle Tennessee; 4 TDs and 202 yards in basically one half versus Alabama A&M; 205 and a touchdown versus K-State; we won’t mention the Alabama game; and 264 with 3 end zones against Florida (more passing yards than both Gator QBs). He’s the real deal, and is a solid SEC quarterback. If they had balance with the rush, he would be even more effective.

What worries you about anchoring down in Nashville? Leave it in the comments below, and as always…

GO ‘DAWGS!!!

*I’ll let you guess who is #10, and who happens to be atop that list.

**In case you can’t tell, I mailed that one in. Sue me. Unless you’re MaconDawg, in which case I throw myself on your merciful benevolence and ask you to consider I’m an accountant by training and by the State of North Carolina.