Nashville, TN (SportsNetwork.com) - Still looking for their first SEC victory
of the season, the Vanderbilt Commodores will continue their three-game
homestand on Saturday afternoon against the 15th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs.
Few teams in the nation have endured a more strenuous first-half schedule than
has Georgia, and while it has a 4-2 record with a pair of outstanding
victories over South Carolina (41-30) and LSU (44-41), its two losses to
Clemson (38-25) and most recently Missouri (41-26) has all but spoiled its
chances of making a run at the national championship game.
"The best thing to do right now is get ready to play Vanderbilt and try to get
a victory there," Georgia head coach Mark Richt said following the upset
defeat at the hands of Missouri. "It's been tough to be able to do that,
especially the last time we were there it was quite the game. We've just got
to try and take care of that business and then the open date we could probably
see how the dust is settling prior to the Florida game (on Nov. 2)."
Vanderbilt has been perhaps the SEC's most disappointing team this season.
Although it has won half its games, it has gone winless in three opportunities
in the league. The Commodores also fell victim to the surging Missouri Tigers
in their latest bout, getting manhandled on their own field on Oct. 5 in a
Georgia has a firm handle on the all-time series with Vanderbilt, 53-18-2,
which includes a 48-3 beat down of the 'Dores in Athens last season.
Georgia's offense has been as advertised this season as one of the best in the
country, putting up 37.5 ppg and 517.3 ypg, but with several of its key
players hurt against Missouri last week, it struggled to find the end zone.
The Bulldogs suffered a couple of season-ending injuries this season to RB
Keith Marshall and WRs Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley, while fellow
receivers Michael Bennett and Jonathan Rumph are also dinged up and missed the
Missouri game. The most crucial loss, however, has been to Todd Gurley (450
yards, four TDs), who has missed the last two contests with an ankle injury
and remains without a definite timetable for his return.
"I think what we want is a really healthy Todd Gurley," Richt said. "We want
him to be at his best. We don't want him to go without being full speed
because if you do it's not safe for him and it also can cause another setback
that could sit him down even longer. Whenever he looks healthy enough and
feels healthy enough we'll play him. Whether it's this week or not, I don't
know if that's a big factor."
Without his full arsenal of weapons, Aaron Murray struggled against Missouri,
and even though he finished with 290 yards and three touchdowns, he completed
25-of-45 pass attempts and threw a pair of picks. His season has still been
fantastic, as he has thrown for 304.0 ypg with 20 touchdowns (three rushing)
against only five interceptions.
In the absence of Gurley and Marshall, J.J. Green has stepped up as the
featured back with 281 yards (8.3 ypc) and a touchdown. Brendan Douglas (134
yards, TD) also figures in the mix.
Murray's healthiest receiver is Chris Conley, who leads the way in receptions
(25), yards (378) and touchdowns (two). Tight end Arthur Lynch also gets
involved with 13 receptions, 205 yards and two scores.
The Bulldogs defense has been a disaster this season. No matter how many
points the offense scores, the defensive unit is capable of allowing just as
much (33.7 ppg, 399.0 ypg).
Ramik Wilson has a team-high 61 tackles, with 4.5 of those coming behind the
line of scrimmage. Ray Drew (5.0 sacks) and Leonard Floyd (4.0 sacks) create
an effective pass-rush. The unit has not been very opportunistic, forcing only
five turnovers through six games.
Despite its lackluster record through the first half of the season,
Vanderbilt's offense is in the midst of its most productive campaign in school
history, as it is scoring 33.7 ppg on 425.0 ypg, and is on pace to break last
season's school record of 390 points.
Austyn Carta-Samuels runs the offense, and while he has made some mistakes
with six interceptions, he's been largely productive in completing 66.1
percent of his passes for 1,561 yards with 15 touchdowns (five rushing).
Carta-Samuels has the luxury of throwing to Jordan Matthews, who has
established himself as one of the nation's best receivers. Matthews ranks
seventh in the country in receptions (47) and fifth in yards (709), while
scoring five times, and the senior has amassed 100 yards receiving in five of
six games this season and 15 times in his career.
With opposing defenses keying in on Matthews, Jonathan Krause is able to take
advantage of one-one-one opportunities, turning 24 catches into 430 yards and
Jerron Seymour and Wesley Tate both get work out of the backfield. Seymour has
rushed for 351 yards and six scores on 59 attempts and Tate has 62 carries for
271 yards and four touchdowns. The duo can also be trusted as receivers with a
combined 23 catches.
After establishing itself as one of the SEC's most sturdy defenses in recent
years, Vanderbilt has struggled on that side of the ball this season, allowing
26.5 ppg and 390.0 ypg.
"We are running the same defense we've run for the last three years, (but) we
need to take a look at our personnel," Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin
said. "Play younger guys or different guys. We have issues at certain
Kenny Ladler leads the way with 49 tackles and a forced fumble, while Caleb
Azubike chips in 6.5 TFL and 2.0 sacks. The unit has been without one of its
best players in linebacker Chase Garnham (84 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks in
2012) since early September with a leg injury.
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