The Dawgs are 4-2 heading into their matchup against 2-4 Vanderbilt. However, Georgia cannot take the Commodores lightly, as Vanderbilt’s 3 SEC losses have all come by a touchdown or less. For Georgia to have any chance at the SEC East crown, it is imperative that they pull through with a victory on Saturday, as a 3rd conference loss would likely eliminate them from contention. It appears that the running game will be a major factor in the game, as the matchup features three of the best backs in the SEC in Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and Vanderbilt’s Ralph Webb.
Georgia is led by their strong running game, featuring star running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Both Chubb and Michel had huge games last weekend against South Carolina, combining for 254 yards and 2 touchdowns. It was the first game where both backs appeared to be at full strength, as Chubb and Michel both have been battling injuries this season. The duo has carried the offense for the majority of the year, as the passing game has struggled under true freshman quarterback Jacob Eason. Georgia likely will once again rely on Michel and Chubb Saturday to lead them to victory against the Commodores, especially considering that on average the Commodores give up 176.8 rushing yards per game.
Commodores running back Ralph Webb could be a major issue for the Dawgs’ defense, as Webb is 2nd in the SEC and 14th in the nation in rushing yards per game. The redshirt junior out of Gainesville, Florida is having a tremendous season so far, averaging over 113 rushing yards per game along with scoring 7 touchdowns on the year. Look for Vanderbilt to depend heavily on Webb Saturday, as Vanderbilt’s passing game has been struggling as well.
While it is obvious that Bulldog quarterback Jacob Eason has more than enough talent to lead the Dawgs’ offense, it is evident that the freshman from Lake Stevens, Washington has a long way to go before being fully capable to consistently lead an SEC offense. Last weekend, Eason struggled against the Gamecocks, completing just 5 of 17 pass attempts for 29 yards with a touchdown and an interception. On the season, Eason has thrown for 8 touchdowns, 1,020 yards, and 5 interceptions, but is struggling with his accuracy, as he is completing just over 50% of his passes. Eason could greatly benefit from having a strong game against the Commodores this weekend and gaining some confidence heading into their next game against the Florida Gators.
Vanderbilt’s passing game has been even worse than Georgia’s this season, as Commodore quarterback Kyle Shurmur has thrown just 3 touchdowns this season along with 3 interceptions. Like Eason, Shurmur struggles with accuracy, as the sophomore out of Philadelphia has completed just 52.8% of his throws on the season. However, Shurmur could look to have some success this Saturday in Athens as the Dawgs’ secondary has struggled mightily this season, ranking 95th in the country in passing efficiency.
While Georgia is a heavy 14.5 point favorite going into Saturday’s matchup, look for the game to be much closer. Both teams struggle throwing the football, likely leading to a low scoring, physical battle in the trenches that will be decided by the running game. Also, the Dawgs are coming off of a short week of practice, as they played last Sunday due to the impact of Hurricane Matthew. If Georgia can come through with a strong win Saturday, it could provide some momentum heading into the bye week before facing Florida in Jacksonville the following week in a pivotal matchup. However, if the Dawgs lose, it will all but eliminate them from contention for the SEC East crown. While most do not see this game as highly important, the outcome could very well indicate how Georgia will finish the season.
The Dawgs and Commodores will kick off in Athens at 12:00 ET on Saturday. The game can be watched on SEC Network.