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Georgia vs. Vanderbilt Prediction and Preview

Georgia vs. Vanderbilt Prediction and Preview

Georgia vs. Vanderbilt Prediction

Okay, so maybe this isn't Georgia-Alabama. Or Georgia-Florida. But with Georgia-Vanderbilt we've still got two SEC teams squaring off on the opening weekend of the season. How cool is that? No need to wait till October to see two division rivals go head to head and put an early stamp on their conference season.

Everybody has the Bulldogs on their radar as a possible College Football Playoff participant, as witnessed by their preseason ranking at No. 3. And while the Commodores don't have the same pedigree, they also head into the 2019 season with some lofty hopes and dreams. There are key returnees that should play a huge role in the 'Dores making another run to a postseason game.

Here is how things break down for this weekend's SEC opener.

Georgia at Vanderbilt

Kickoff: Saturday, Aug. 31 at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

Spread: Georgia -20

When Georgia Has the Ball

It's Jake Fromm's show now. After the transfer of wildly-talented backup Justin Fields, Fromm will not have the specter of a second-teamer overtaking him after a bad series or two. It's all up to him. The strong-armed Fromm had 30 touchdowns to just six picks last year and should have a higher comfort level. But he'll have a walk-on sophomore and a true freshman backing him up, so if he happens to go down with an injury, the depth there is not up to snuff.

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Keep an eye on who emerges from the receiving corps for the Bulldogs since the top four pass catchers from a year ago have moved on. Head coach Kirby Smart likes his "by committee" receiving corps as far as the talent level goes and feels like they just need to gain some playing time and the confidence that goes with it. The hope is that former five-star recruit and Cal transfer Demetris Robertson can make more of an impact this season.

Vanderbilt's defense was 13th in the SEC in total and rushing yards allowed per game last season. You know D'Andre Swift (1,049 yards, 10 TDs last year) and that stable of Bulldog running backs behind him have to be licking their chops to stack up some yardage. That pound-and-ground attack will be what the Bulldogs look to establish first. The Commodores allowed nearly 30 points and 468 yards per game in SEC play a year ago.

When Vanderbilt Has the Ball

It's hard to say what the Commodores offense will look like since the coaching staff still hasn't named a starting quarterback. But whoever is at the controls will have plenty to work with. The leading returning rusher in the SEC is Ke'Shawn Vaughn, who busted out for 1,244 yards on the ground last season. Also, tight end Jared Pinkney (50 catches, 774 yards, 7 touchdowns) is one of the premier tight ends in the country, having already been voted a first-team All-SEC preseason selection. Finally, wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb is back on board after finishing third in the SEC with 916 yards on 87 catches.

Look for those three to try to get on track right away. In last season's 41-13 loss to Georgia, Lipscomb and Pinkney had their worst games of the season, held to a combined three catches. And Vaughn's day wasn't much better, running the ball just nine times for 79 yards as the game got out of hand and the 'Dores had to abandon the run.

Kirby Smart lamented the fact that the Silver Britches don't have a dominant pass rusher that can disrupt the offense. So no matter if the new VU quarterback is junior Deuce Wallace or Ball State transfer Riley Neal, expect the Commodores to try to establish a comfort zone early with some quick-hit passes to get them into a rhythm. Though only two offensive line starters are back, Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason said they platooned 12 linemen last year and eight of those return.

Final Analysis

Considering Georgia has one of the best offensive lines returning in the country (four of five starters are back), this looks like a game where the Bulldogs might be able to name their score vs. the Commodores. But don't be too fooled, the 'Dores made their second bowl game in the last two years and have a good bit of confidence as a program under sixth-year head coach Derek Mason.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Georgia

While the Commodores should make this one competitive for a good bit of the game, the Bulldogs have more quality depth, due to their Alabama-level recruiting the last two or three years. That's what makes Georgia a favorite to win all 12 of their regular-season games.

Prediction: Georgia 42, Vanderbilt 24

— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.