Sometimes football is easy to figure out. Sometimes it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know how a team must win a game.
Vanderbilt entered Saturday’s game against Georgia with the third-worst rushing defense in the SEC. The Commodores allowed 218 rushing yards last week to Florida, and Alabama had 496 rushing yards when it blew out Vanderbilt 59-0 two weeks ago.
So, with Georgia having the best group of running backs in the conference — and perhaps in the country — the Georgia game plan was simple. There was no way Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney could mess this up.
Run the ball. Just run the football.
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It worked. Georgia’s defense wasn’t the main story for the first time all season. Instead, the Georgia running game made sure the Bulldogs’ defense had time to rest.
Vanderbilt couldn’t stop Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and company. Georgia rushed for 423 yards and had four rushing touchdowns in the 45-14 victory in Nashville.
Georgia will face better run defenses later this season, but the confidence the offense line must have now after the past three games will help prepare for that. The Bulldogs have averaged 47 rushes and 306 yards the past three games. That’s a 6.5 yards per carry. That’s pretty good, really good.
For all the talk about the Georgia quarterbacks, opponents better focus on the running backs instead. “Go ahead,” Georgia will say, “stop them.” It’s not just Chubb and Michel, but also D’Andre Swift, Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien. The non-Chubb, Michel runners combined for 26 carries Saturday for 135 yards.
Run the ball, stop the run. Football is that easy. Georgia limited Vanderbilt to 64 rushing yards. Take away Ralph Webb’s 28-yard run, and Vanderbilt had just 36 yards on its other 21 carries.
The Commodores did some damage through the air, as quarterback Kyle Shurmur threw for 172 yards. That might be a good thing.
For most of Saturday, Georgia got very little pass rush on Shurmur. It’s something this Georgia defense must improve. Against a better team, and against a better quarterback (like against Auburn), Georgia will need a better pass rush.
That’s about all you could complain about in Georgia’s performance. It was obvious from the outset, as expected, that Georgia was the better team. And it didn’t take long to know Georgia had revenge on its minds, to erase the horrible lost to Vanderbilt from last season.
The more this Georgia team plays, the better it looks. But how much better could it be a month from now, when it heads into what could be the biggest game of the year against Auburn?
The game Saturday was merely a formality. There was no way Vanderbilt was going to beat Georgia. Gone are the days when Georgia fans must hold their breath and wonder about an awful performance on the road after a huge win. This team is different. This team is determined not to have that nightmare — like what Oklahoma had Saturday in Norman in its loss to Iowa State.
Georgia has another warm-up Saturday when the awful Missouri Tigers visit Athens. Then, the real schedule begins. Then we’ll see exactly how good this Georgia team is when that schedule gets much more difficult. Like always, games against Florida and Auburn will define the regular season.
But if Georgia runs the football and stops the run, like it has for the first half of the season, is it time to start to wonder who will beat this team?
Listen to "The Bill Shanks Show" from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on "Middle Georgia’s ESPN" – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.