Nashville recap: Georgia escapes, 33-28

I made it into town on Friday night in time for a ceremonial pregame dinner at Music City’s finest anti-internet fried chicken establishment and a chance meeting with Taylor Hicks, and I was up the next morning to watch the early games (11:00 am Central) at Nashville’s newest sports bar. After victories by our party’s favored teams, Michigan State and South Carolina, we made our way to our usual tailgate spot, the sunny, low-70s weather being perfect for the activity.

Like most of Vanderbilt’s conference foes, Georgia is on the winning side of a lopsided record that stretches back to 1893. Saturday’s game followed suit, omitting the adjectives. Georgia won, but not handily (much to commodawg’s chagrin), as Vanderbilt missed three game-winning opportunities in the final seconds. Milking a five-point lead, the Dawgs tried to run out the clock, but defense and Vandy’s use of its two remaining timeouts forced a Georgia punt that Vanderbilt blocked. With nothing between them and the endzone but a loose ball, the Vanderbilt defenders were unable to scoop it up and run it in, falling on the bouncing ball instead. With eight seconds left in the game, QB Jordan Rodgers took two strikes at the endzone from about twenty-five yards out, but the Commodores were unable to convert.

Our seats were good for watching the game, but they didn’t allow us to gain any particular insights on the postgame scuffle between Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin and a Georgia assistant coach or the alleged dirty play on Georgia’s part that may have instigated it. Keep reading…

ALDLAND’s rivalry weekend

While this Saturday features a full slate of college games, Sunday will see the Lions and Packers each try to push their records to 6-0 against the 49ers and Rams, respectively, and the conclusion of the ALCS, ALDLAND is highlighting two of the college games for special attention.

First up is the noon o’clock (Eastern) meeting between Michigan and Michigan State in East Lansing. State has taken the last three games in the series, but this year feels like a tipping point. MSU is the better team, but its stock is falling right now, while the undefeated Wolverines’ stock seems to be rising weekly. The question is, where on the relative spectrum will these two teams be when they face off on Saturday? Michigan may be rolling right now, but it’s a home game for the Spartans, who have had two weeks to get ready for this one. Of course, with a team that has had discipline problems even under coach Mark Dantonio, that extra time off could cut either way.

The featured night game is in Nashville, where Georgia (4-2 (3-1)) will take on Vanderbilt (3-2 (1-2)), and commodawg and I will be in attendance. The obvious subtext, to readers of this site, will be the conflicting allegiances of the two writers. There is a less obvious game within a game going on here too, however. While we aren’t quite talking about The Inner Game of Tennis, the future trajectories of these two programs also are at stake, to some degree, on Saturday night.

The reason is recruiting. Vandy has made inroads in Georgia in recent years, and first-year coach James Franklin has been putting in a lot of effort there so far in his short tenure. The university has been encouraging fans to show up early (contrary to current tradition) because a large number of recruits are scheduled to be at the game for their official visit. From Stanimal at Vanderbilt Sports Line:

If there has ever been a more important weekend in Vanderbilt history in terms of recruiting, this is it. Unlike previous years, Coach Franklin has made a committment to competing with the rest of the SEC and the nation as a whole for top-shelf talent. He is not afraid to go after anyone, and he and his staff have worked very, very hard to get these kids interested in Vanderbilt. In no other state is this more apparent than in Georgia, where CJF has made massive in-roads in one of the best high school football states in the country. For a lot of these kids visiting this weekend (and we are talking some very high-level prospects), they are deciding whether to wear their black with Bulldog red or Commodore gold. This does NOT need to be a free recruiting visit for Mark Richt and his crew. It needs to be a show that this University and its fan base is behind Coach Franklin, his players, his staff, and this team.

His full call to action is available here. What effect this will have on our tailgating plans is not yet clear. As usual, readers can expect coverage of the game and the weekend here and on twitter and flickr.