The Vanderbilt Commodores are walking through the “lions den” portion of their schedule, playing fierce SEC opponents left and right. First it was Alabama, then Ole Miss. Now VU has to face Georgia.
By Matt Zemek
Let’s be honest: The idea that Vanderbilt can win this game is hard to take seriously. We’re talking about the defending national champions of college football and an undisputed top-three team in the sport, going up against a Vanderbilt team which – in football terms – is learning how to walk in the incipient stages of the Clark Lea rebuilding project. We could talk about the keys to a Vanderbilt victory, but a more realistic approach involves the keys to making this game beneficial and helpful for the Commodores as they continue with their season:
1 – Learn
That’s it. Learn from this game, much as VU learned from the Alabama and Ole Miss games. VU actually did seem to learn from the Alabama loss when it played Ole Miss. Getting an education from Bama on how to play with physicality and force seemed to help VU in the first half against Ole Miss. Vanderbilt did outplay the Rebels in the first half and got a 10-point lead, forcing Ole Miss to play a lot better in the second half to ultimately win that game. Vanderbilt took a real step forward against the Rebels because it internalized the right lessons after the Alabama loss. That process of learning from one game and applying lessons in the next game needs to continue here against Georgia. If VU can play one good half against Georgia, that will show Lea and his staff that players are truly getting into the practice and habit of carrying one game’s lessons into the next, which would be great news for the larger overall progress of this restoration effort at Vanderbilt. Importantly, VU would be able to enter the less threatening part of the SEC schedule with a much greater chance of winning games. Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, South Carolina – they’re all winnable games for Vanderbilt. Learning here against Georgia sets the table for the possibility of multiple SEC wins later on.
2 – Third downs
If Vanderbilt wants to become a successful team which wins its share of SEC games, it must become a good third-down team on offense and defense. Let’s see if VU can get into third-and-short situations against Georgia instead of third and sevens. Let’s see if the Dores can convert at or close to a 50-percent rate.
3 – 22
That’s the number of points Kent State and Missouri put up against Georgia this year. Let’s see how close VU can come to that number. It’s unlikely VU can reach it, but if Kent State and Mizzou could get there, Vanderbilt can.