It’s no secret that UGA head coach Mark Richt is on the hot seat. At 2-4 (1-3 SEC), the Dawgs -- a preseason Top 25 team -- are down. Arguably they’re rejuvenated coming off a blowout victory over Tennessee last Saturday, but with Caleb King getting arrested and suspended this week (that makes 11 arrests since spring for Richt’s players -- ouch), Georgia loses some key depth at running back. That definitely plays into Vanderbilt’s hands given our ongoing struggles stopping the run (183.8 ypg allowed). Assuming UGA looks to the air in order to take the pressure off RB Washaun Ealey, I’ll be interested to see the matchup between Georgia’s A.J. Green and Vandy CBs Eddie Foster and Casey Hayward, who Chris Low rightly says is one of the most underrated players in the SEC (9th in the nation in INTs).
I’ll also be interested to see if Vanderbilt can put up points in Athens. As far as I can tell, that will depend a lot on which version of Larry Smith shows up to play. As Bobby put it to me in a text message from the EMU game last week, it truly appears to be a story of Jekyll and Hyde with Larry. Those two plays where he overthrew Brandon Barden and Trey Herndon in the end zone were embarrassing. But just as Herm Edwards started to crucify LS on the broadcast, and just as I started to join his chorus, Smith suddenly turned it around and played a seemingly flawless game for much of the remainder. I have said before that it seems to me those ups and downs and inconsistencies often hinge on the amount of situational pressure Larry is under, and six weeks into the season, I’ve seen little reason to alter that assessment. So we’ll see I guess. And of course, Larry can’t do it alone: the offensive line has allowed a lot of sacks and committed a lot of penalties. That can’t happen on the road against a talented opponent.
Eastern Michigan is 0-6 and terrible; maybe the worst (or second-worst) team in FBS. Georgia is a different story. I think Bobby was right that it’s hard to say how much we learned about Vanderbilt last week because of the weakness of the opponent. I think this week could be a real identity test for the Dores to see what this team is made of, how quickly we can grow up, and whether we still have an outside shot at six wins given the woes of the SEC East. I’d like to think we do, and would be encouraged to be even more of a believer if the coaches found a way to get Warren Norman more touches. The Chamblee, GA native is simply a (quiet) beast, one of the top all-purpose rushers in the conference (and country for that matter). He averages over 6 yards per carry, and I don’t think it’s entirely a coincidence that in Vanderbilt’s two wins War-Nor had 14 and 15 carries while in our two double-digit losses he had 8 and 6.
Jeff Schultz at the AJC argues that if Mark Richt is going to lose his job it’ll be because of all the discipline issues, not the number in the loss column. But I can’t help but think a loss to Vanderbilt could be the straw that breaks the back of the fickle, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately camel that is the SEC fan base. If Richt did get the boot, of course, the question on many minds would be where he would land. It’s a premature thing for anyone to think about, but (since no one pays us to put the cart behind the horse) I might as well note that I’ve heard a murmur or two here or there that lead me to believe some Vanderbilt fans would like to go ahead and weigh in on that question.
Personally, I'm not there yet (for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that CRC deserves a full and fair chance).
But seeing as unfounded conjecture and vague rumors have a way of spicing up any storyline, I guess it can't hurt to say "stay tuned" . . .