Although conference play technically began when South Carolina survived against SEC East foe Vanderbilt in the first game of the college football season, conference play ramps up in earnest this week, when the Commodores, and yours truly, head to Athens for a night game between the hedges against #5 Georgia.
As indicated in the photograph, these divisional opponents have some history. When they played in the above-depicted game, nearly fifty-six years to the day prior to Saturday night’s meeting, Vanderbilt scored a 14-0 victory at home. Unsurprisingly, that outcome does not predominate; in a series that began in 1893 (with a 35-10 Commodore win, incidentally), the Dawgs have a 53-18-2 record. The series was far more competitive through the early 1960s, but Vanderbilt has only four wins (and one tie) against UGA since the 1961 season.
These two teams have some recent notable history, too. ALDLAND was there, in duplicate, for their last meeting, in which Georgia survived a late special teams error to escape Nashville with a win. It was what happened after the game that most people will remember, though, as Vandy head coach James Franklin and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham had a heated confrontation that served as the undercard to the Jim Schwartz-Jim Harbaugh confrontation that was yet to come at that point.
Whatever emotions that coach-on-coach activity may still stir a year later, they’re overshadowed by two strategic decisions in play on the Vanderbilt sideline, one of which appears to be decided, and one of which does not. The first involves special teams, and punt returns in particular. Franklin yesterday said, “We will never fair catch. Ever.” So there’s that. While that ultimately is a fairly minor decision– it’s not as if he announced that Vandy will never punt, ever, although they certainly try to avoid it– the unresolved issue is a bigger one: Who will play quarterback for the Black & Gold? Breaking with past practice, Austyn Carta-Samuels played the entire game against Presbyterian last week in place of Jordan Rodgers, but it’s unknown, at least to this writer and apparently to the Internet-At-Large, who will be under center against the Georgia defense Saturday night. AoG has a very thorough breakdown of the two signal-callers, which yields a few conclusions:
- “Neither quarterback has much experience winning games against high-level opponents”;
- “While Rodgers is the more dynamic playmaker thanks to his running abilities, Carta-Samuels has been the more accurate passer”; and
- “The statistics seem to back Rodgers as a stronger playmaker, but he hasn’t shown that ability so far in 2012”.
The relevant qualifier to the linked analysis is that, “while Carta-Samuels may lag behind the 2012 incumbent at QB, it’s difficult to translate his figures from working in Wyoming’s system [from which he transferred] and compare them to how he would have done at Vanderbilt.” (For more ultimately inconclusive data, here’s VSL’s fan poll on this question.)
That’s all we’ve got in the way of a preview. As usual, follow in-game updates live on our twitter feed, and stay tuned here after the game for pro-style photographs, only the most insightful analysis, and to find out whether Commodawg was able to break away from work and make it to the game.