It was only a few weeks ago that James Franklin was being whispered about as a candidate for the head coaching job at Southern Cal, or Texas if the Longhorns decided to part with Mack Brown. There's not as much talk about that after the Commodores' cold start has continued, and that could be very good news for Vanderbilt. Especially after Franklin's team sprung a stunning upset Saturday against Georgia -- a team with whom Franklin has a history -- while playing much of the game with a backup quarterback.
It was the first time Vanderbilt defeated Georgia, Florida or South Carolina -- the closest thing the SEC East had to a "Big Three" before the entire trio wiped out Saturday -- since the 2008 game against South Carolina. It was Vanderbilt's first win against a team that was ranked at the time since beating Auburn later in the 2008 season. And it was the first time the Commodores have beaten the Dawgs since 2006, and the first time they've done so in Nashville since 1991.
That's a lot of significant boxes checked off with one win. And while there were some fluke plays that helped Vanderbilt -- as well as two terrible targeting calls -- it's not really like the Commodores won this game on the cheap. They outgained Georgia 337-221 and had 21 first downs to 16 for Georgia. The turnover game was a modest plus-one. It took a fake FG and a botched long snap by Georgia to give Vanderbilt some of its points, but if Georgia had won, we would have been looking at how they did it despite being outgained, etc.
But Georgia's offense without many of its key players continues to underwhelm. Aaron Murray was 16-of-28 for 114 yards and an interception; there's only so much a quarterback can do when he's essentially playing with the practice squad. The Dawgs' longest play of the day went for 17 yards. The average play went for 3.5 yards. This against a team that has allowed an average of 390 yards a game and 5.6 yards a play. With the skill positions manned almost entirely by backups, the offense that was Georgia's only hope this year is basically in a state of collapse.
In addition to what you could call a signature win for Franklin, the game also gives Vanderbilt a little bit of breathing room in their quest for a bowl -- breathing room the Commodores might need, especially with Austyn Carta-Samuels leaving the game with an injury in the first half. Home wins against Kentucky and Wake Forest would now lock Vanderbilt into a postseason, with Tennessee looking more dangerous than ever and trips to Texas A&M and Florida seeming to be unlikely to produce wins. Then again, beating Georgia with a backup quarterback didn't seem like a likely outcome before Saturday. So who's to say it can't happen again?