Welcome to Georgia-Vandy 2.0

Last year's game in Nashville saw the Dawgs let their emotions get the better of them. (Associated Press)

Last year's game in Nashville saw the Dawgs let their emotions get the better of them. (Associated Press)

In past years, Georgia’s annual tilt with Vanderbilt has been regarded by fans and media as just one notch above one of the nonconference cupcakes on the schedule (a Twinkie?), elevated mainly by it being an SEC East game.

It’s been a low-key “rivalry” by any standards. Even on those rare occasions when Georgia had lost to the Commodores the previous year (only once out of the past 17 years), there wasn’t much of a build-up in terms of grudge factor and very little anticipation on the part of the Bulldog Nation. It was viewed as an aberration. “We lost to Vandy!

That’s not to say that the Vandy game has always been an easy win for Georgia. The Dores have generally played with attitude and sometimes the Dawgs have barely eked out a victory against the school from Nashville. But even when they did there was still a sense that it was only Vandy. Remember the chagrin many UGA fans expressed over seeing Bulldog players celebrating at midfield after Brandon Coutu’s last-second field goal gave Georgia a much-needed win in 2007?

Last year’s game probably should have fallen into that category. Georgia won, but thanks to an implosion on the part of the Dawgs’ special teams, the game was much closer than it should have been. Plus it was more chippy than usual thanks to the Georgia players’ irritation over cut blocks and late hits. Three players (two from Georgia, one from Vandy) wound up serving half-game suspensions from the conference for their behavior in that game.

Ah, but what what has truly elevated the Georgia-Vanderbilt series from Little Debbie status in 2012 to something resembling full-on SEC rivalry (at least for this week) is last year’s postgame on-field confrontation between voluble Vandy head coach James Franklin and fiery Georgia defensive chief Todd Grantham.

Generally, nobody looks forward to the Vanderbilt game in the offseason, but there’s been a suprising amount of fan anticipation over this one. Richt was even asked about the rematch with the Commodores at one of those spring fan gatherings!

The Georgia coach and the rest of his staff, as well has the Vandy coach, have tried to downplay the Grantham-Franklin aspect of this year’s game, though the UGA players haven’t been shy about their feelings. “We’ll be charged up,” defensive back Sanders Commings said this week. “We’re going to remember last year. Vandy’s a good team, but they’re not us. We’re going to show them.”

For their part, the Commodores likely have a bit of a chip on their shoulders about last year as well. They no doubt feel they should have won last year’s game, and they nearly did.

Of course, having the Dawgs enter a game with a bit of fire and emotion against an opponent that, on paper, isn’t their equal generally would be considered a good thing, as opposed to the taking-a-win-for-granted sleepwalking we sometimes see early on in such matches.

But what Georgia’s players have to guard against is letting their emotions get away from them, as appeared to happen last year in Nashville, when Mark Richt’s team got called for 11 penalties (including three personal fouls), allowed its focus to waver in defending the run (letting a Vandy team ranked 100th in the nation in rushing gash them repeatedly), wound up having to try for too many field goals (only making four of six attempted) and turned even punting into something resembling Russian roulette.

As Richt said after the game: “I’m thankful for the victory … but I’m disappointed in how we played overall.”

vandy logoAs we approach this year’s game with Vandy, the anticipation is that the Dores will play the Dawgs tough, at least early on, but again are outmatched. Thus, a point spread of better than two touchdowns.

Franklin has upgraded his program’s personnel, but so far still with pretty much the same results. Does it really matter whether Jordan Rodgers or Austyn Carta-Samuels starts at quarterback? Probably not much. Vandy’s running game struggled against South Carolina and Northwestern (both losses for the Dores) and then got on track last week against Presbyterian, a Football Championship Subdivision school. But in the words of Vandy’s head coach, “Doing it against Presbyterian is one thing. Doing it against Georgia is another.”

As long as Georgia doesn’t make too many mistakes (turnovers, missed defensive assignments), the game shouldn’t be as challenging as the win over Missouri. Last year against Vandy, Georgia didn’t have much of a rushing game. That shouldn’t be the case this year. And Mike Bobo’s passing attack has been pretty impressive of late.

The main thing I’ll be watching is how Georgia’s still-not-full-strength defense opens, after another slow start last week against Florida Atlantic. Perhaps the ill will generated by last year’s fracas will be enough motivation to have Georgia’s much-vaunted defenders playing up to their capabilities from the very start instead of having to rely on Grantham’s admittedly effective halftime adjustments.

If that’s the case, the Georgia-Vandy series should be back to its normal boring self next year.

Got something you want to discuss concerning UGA athletics? Or maybe a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? Send it to junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

59 comments Add your comment

LKB

September 21st, 2012
7:27 am

UGA will have 40 plus on Vandy. Mark it down. It will be a little revenge for last year. Yes revenge since I think the players are a little embarrased they wasted away a 16 point lead. Will not happen this year.

I-DOG

September 21st, 2012
9:10 am

Some posters are thinking we are going to line up and run it with our three tailbacks and bigger offensive line. That would make sense, but I’ll believe that when I see it. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see us run the ball 40 times with our tailbacks, but I don’t think it will happen.

I believe you will see a lot of 3 WR sets and a think pass first offense. I think we will keep doing that until we lose with it.

ARdawg

September 21st, 2012
9:35 am

I DOG
Probably so. But, the think pass first offense keeps the opposing defense softened up for a successful running game. Georgia seems to be developing to a quick strike offense which also decreases the number of totes in the backfield. Whatever it takes to win but I do enjoy watching balance

I bought my UGA gear at WalMart

September 21st, 2012
9:37 am

Gee, SSigator, how did you get your head in there in the first place? Do you go around like that all the time or just when you are on a UGA blog site? That must be tough on your spinal column

BMOC

September 21st, 2012
9:38 am

I’d be surrprised it this game isn’t close up until halftime. Vandy’s a scrapy team – they gave South Carolina all they could handle 3 weeks ago. If Georgia makes mistakes early, i.e. pentalties, over-throwing receivers, etc, etc, it will be TOO close for comfort. I think that the second half will be the separation point though.

I bought my UGA gear at WalMart

September 21st, 2012
9:40 am

I look for an old fashioned beat down of the Dores this time. I hope everyone is back for this game.

ARdawg

September 21st, 2012
10:29 am

Murray is the lynch pin. If he is on, this game gets ugly for the Dores quick. If he isn’t, it’ll be ugly to watch but still a win

Dawg Tired

September 21st, 2012
10:33 am

We sure could use the Kent State Golden Flashes’ D this week. They basically (one fluke TD on a Hail Mary at end of first 1/2) shut out the Mighty Bulls of Suny-Buffalo on the Mighty Bulls’ home field (I think that’s in Buffalo).

just saying

September 21st, 2012
11:23 am

Nice article. Hope it is a good and CLEAN game. Hope no one gets hurt. I imagine that UGA will win by a lot. Just want to say a few things though. I was proud of Franklin for a few things- the Vandy player with the illegal block was kicked off the team, he publlicaly stated he regretted the after game thing and wished it had been handled differently, and there was a one time issue with a Vandy player saying stuff to UGA sidelines and FRanklin immediately grabbed him off thefield to stop. I was also pleased with Richt after the 2007 Star-V stomp; he handled it instantly and apologized and no Vandy fan was mad (wonder how UGA would feel if their field was stomped?). Which is why Vandy fans had wished the Richt had done something or said something later about what was going on on the Vandy sidelines during TV timeouts. Repeatedly! Most horrible things I have ever seen- still couldn’t believe my eyes – why couldnt Richt have stopped it? I’m sure the post game thing would never have happened.(btw, credit Andy coaches and players for not crossing the sideline) The way some UGA fans are posting at other sites, Vandy is responsible for everything. Both teams contributed to the probem. I really am concerned about the safety of Vandy fans at the game. Please, I hope everyone calms down.