Game Time: 12:30 EST @ Bobby Dodd Stadium
TV: ACC Network
Odds: Vanderbilt opened as 7.5-point underdogs to Georgia Tech. The line now hovers around 6.5 points.
This game feels as ancient as the dirt. This will be the 38th meeting between the two and I'm not certain whether that should be "just the 38th meeting" or not. The fact is, both are historically storied universities, however not so much for dominating football.
The last meeting between the two came in 2009 when Paul Johnson took Georgia Tech to the Orange Bowl and an ACC title. The Yellow Jackets won 56-31 that day, but there doesn't quite seem to be the same trace of offensive firepower.
Vanderbilt is coming off an important win against mid-state rival MTSU, one where their offense actually appeared cognizant, scoring 47 points. The last time they scored at least 30 points in a game September 12th of last year, when they coincidentally dropped 47 points on Austin Peay.
Currently, the Yellow Jackets are sitting at 2-0 with an early lead in the Coastal Division of the ACC thanks to an opening week win over Boston College in Dublin, while the Commodores are one made-field-goal away from being undefeated as well.
Needless to say, enough is at stake for both teams to warrant a tough game.
What really needs to be said about both teams is that neither quarterback has wowed with eye-popping statistics up to this point. Tech QB Justin Thomas is the personification of the Paul Johnson-era triple option quarterback. He's a dual-threat with abilities leaning more towards running than passing.
Vanderbilt's signal-caller, Kyle Shurmur, is more in the mold of a traditional pocket-passing quarterback. Unfortunately for him, though, he has to deal with the stigma of being the leader of Vanderbilt's offense.
However, both quarterbacks have managed expectations through two games very well. Neither has thrown an interception (each has attempted a total of 75 passes between them--Chad Kelly has attempted 66 on his own) and they find ways to put their teams in a decent enough position to at least score points.
The real celebrity of this game is Vandy's Ralph Webb. Webb is easily the most unheralded great player in the SEC. He's rushed for over 2,000 career yards at Vanderbilt. And he's done it completely in the Derek Mason era, which has not been a good offensive era for the 'Dores.
While it was tough sledding against South Carolina in Week 1 (20 carries for 97 yards), he absolutely annihilated Middle Tennessee State's defense to the tune of 211 yards on 29 carries and 2 touchdowns. Shurmur may be the key to a road win, but Webb is going to be the guy you remember. Continue to watch this kid as the year goes along.
To this point, Vandy's defense has had to combat a little bit more tempo in the season with MTSU. And while Tech's offense does not lend itself to the HUNH, they certainly are an anomaly in college football and Mason has experience prepping well for anomalies.
As you might recall, Mason was the defensive coordinator for Stanford when it seemed Stanford was the only team that could handle Chip Kelly's newfangled spread offense. And, remember, he held last year's Western Kentucky team to 14 points.
The triple option is certainly a completely different prospect, but Zach Cunningham and company are a sound defensive unit. Vandy's defense could get surprised early in this game, look for them to settle down by the second quarter.
On the flip side, Georgia Tech's defense has not been tested to this point and one could say that Vanderbilt doesn't provide any more of a test, but with one of the SEC's best running backs and a mistake-free quarterback manning the ship, Vandy will go on the road and pull an upset.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 24, Georgia Tech 20