Going into a Week 6 matchup with the Vanderbilt Commodores, the question on everyone’s mind was whether Jacob Eason, out since Week 1 with an injury, would reclaim the starting quarterback job.
The answer was no, but it didn’t really matter. The Georgia Bulldogs only attempted 14 passes anyway. Instead, they ran the ball 54 times for a total of 423 yards en route to a 45-14 win over the Commodores.
Sony Michel carried 12 times for 150 yards and a touchdown. Nick Chubb had 138 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns. Even backups Elijah Holyfield (7 carries, 51 yards and a TD) and D’Andre Swift (4 carries for 32 yards) got in on the action. Once Vandy showed that they weren’t going to be able to do anything to stop the run, UGA barely threw the ball at all — though it didn’t hurt that the Dawgs jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the second quarter.
Kyle Shurmur did find Kalija Lipscomb for a 33-yard pass that set up a one-yard Ralph Webb touchdown run shortly before halftime. It was the first touchdown Georgia’s defense had surrendered in three weeks, and made it 21-7 entering the break. But, once the teams came out for the second half, Georgia put this to bed pretty quickly. Jake Fromm hit Terry Godwin on a 47-yard touchdown pass early on in the third quarter to make it 28-7. The Bulldogs then rolled from there, reaching 45-7 in the fourth quarter before a Shurmur TD pass made the final margin 45-14.
Here are three things we learned.
Georgia is the favorite to win the East
While both Georgia and Florida are currently atop the East standings at 3-0, there’s a big difference in how they got there. The Gators played both Tennessee and Vanderbilt at home and beat the two teams by a combined 20 points; Georgia played both on the road and won by a combined 72.
On paper, this really isn’t even close. You have one team that’s eking out wins over what appear to be inferior opponents. The other is completely smothering them. This naturally means that Florida will probably win the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in three weeks, because that’s usually how these things work. But right now, Georgia looks like a clearly superior team.
At some point, Jacob Eason may get his job back
Eason went 3-for-3 passing for 24 yards in mop-up duty, but that’s not why Kirby Smart may have to make a decision soon.
Now that Georgia is 6-0 on the season, you can’t really say that the decision to start Fromm is wrong in any sense; Georgia’s running game has been such that Smart doesn’t really need much from the quarterback position. But at some point, somebody (Florida? Auburn? Alabama in the SEC Championship Game?) is going to be able to at least hold Georgia’s running game under 7 yards per carry, and Georgia might need to be able to stretch the defense.
Fromm’s at least been competent for the last few weeks (and it’s not like Smart had much of a choice before this week). But it’s easy for a quarterback to look good when his running game is virtually unstoppable. A team that can force the quarterback to beat them with his arm might cause trouble here, though.
This has been a brutal stretch for Vanderbilt, but it will get easier
After allowing 13 points — total — in its first three games, Vanderbilt’s defense has surrendered 142 points over the last three weeks. The offense has scored just 38 themselves. Today was kind of an archetype of the season for the offense, with the running game largely getting bottled up and Kyle Shurmur hitting just enough big pass plays to score a couple of touchdowns. Not much else, though.
That said, Vanderbilt’s last three opponents have been Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. Those might well be the three best teams Vanderbilt will face all season, and they’ve had to play all three in succession. After this, Vanderbilt’s remaining schedule is pretty manageable: at Ole Miss, at South Carolina, Western Kentucky, Kentucky, Mizzou, at Tennessee. Do you see a team left on the schedule who’s as good as Florida, much less Alabama or Georgia?
The Commodores still have a good chance at a winning season and a bowl game.