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Week 3 Opponent Preview: Vanderbilt Commodores

After last week’s unconvincing, but never in doubt win over Mercer, the Jackets get their first true test at home, as SEC opponent Vanderbilt comes into town.

NCAA Football: Mercer at Georgia Tech Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Vanderbilt Season So Far

Unfortunately for Vanderbilt fans, the season did not start exactly how they had hoped. In week 1, the Commodores lost at home to fellow SEC opponent South Carolina by a score of 13-10. Now normally, a loss in the SEC is nothing to be ashamed of, but South Carolina, in their first year under new head coach Will Muschamp, was picked by the media to finish last in the Eastern division. That same South Carolina team went on to lose by two scores the following week to Mississippi State, who was picked to finish last in the Western Division.

Vanderbilt bounced back in week 2 with a 47-24 win over Middle Tennessee State on the heels of a 200+ yard rushing performance by junior RB Ralph Webb. He’ll be a player to watch on Saturday after rushing for over 1,200 yards as a sophomore.

Who’s Gone? Who’s Back? Who’s New? (link)

Who’s gone? LB Stephen Weatherly, LB Darreon Herring, and TE Steven Scheu

Who’s back? RB Ralph Webb, QB Kyle Shurmer, and LB Zach Cunningham

Who’s new? DB Joejuan Williams and WR Jackson Winrow

Matchup Preview

The Jackets hold the lead in the series, 19-15-3. In fact, Vanderbilt hasn’t beat the Jackets since 1941, when they won 14-7. In that time period, Tech has racked up 11 wins, including wins in 2002, 2003, and 2009. The 2009 matchup was Paul Johnson’s only time at Tech facing off against Vanderbilt, but he faced them twice in his time at Navy (2003 & 2004), both wins. Johnson has never matched up against Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason.

In order to beat the Commodores, the Jackets will have to have an effective day running the triple option. When the Vanderbilt defense is playing their best, they’re a very strong unit, led by LB Zach Cunningham. If the Jackets are able to put together a few long touchdown drives, it may be all they need against a fairly weak Vanderbilt offense.

The biggest key to the game will be shutting down the aforementioned Webb. In week 1, South Carolina was able to find success by holding him to under 100 yards. In week 2, he ran wild against MTSU. Webb may be one of the most underrated players in the country, and the Jackets should expect a heavy dose of him on Saturday. In order to come out with the win, Tech will need to find the same success that South Carolina did and force QB Kyle Shurmur and Vanderbilt’s other skill players to step up.

Despite winning big last week against Middle Tennessee State, Vanderbilt still allowed 400 yards through the air. It will be interesting to see if the Jackets let Justin Thomas sling it around a bit or if they stick to the option offense. With Vanderbilt’s strong front 7 and weak secondary, Tech may be left with no choice if Vanderbilt shuts down the option early. The good news for the Jackets if this happens? The pass protection looks much improved this year, allowing Thomas to complete 13 of his 25 passes for nearly 200 yards thus far.


Despite two wins, the triple option has looked out of sync, the defense has struggled at times, and Paul Johnson has expressed frustration with how the Jackets have played. Getting B-Back Dedrick Mills back this week should help the offense and I think the Jackets finally come out with a strong performance against the Commodores as they gear up for next week’s Thursday night battle with Clemson. Qua Searcy leads the way on the ground and Thomas has a solid day through the air as Tech wins 28-14.

Other Notes

  • When Tech and Vandy play on Saturday, they will be playing for a long forgotten prize, the Cowbell.
  • Week 3 Depth Chart Update (link)
  • It looks like another great Saturday for football with mostly sunny skies and a high of 89 degrees!

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