No. 2 Georgia on the minds of Vanderbilt
ATHENS, Georgia — Georgia coach Kirby Smart doesn’t like hypothetical questions. He never has, and it’s doubtful he ever will.
That includes questions about whether or not he saw his team undefeated heading into Saturday night’s game against SEC rival Vanderbilt.
Kickoff at Sanford Stadium is set for 7:39 p.m. ET Saturday (SEC Network)
“I get that question a lot. Each week I answer it the same. It’s extremely hypothetical because I don’t think you can say where I thought they would be,” Smart said. “We’re a work in progress. We’re a child trying to learn to walk and then run, then sprint. And we’re not sprinting. I don’t know if we’re jogging yet. I don’t know where we are on the continuum. But we have to improve.”
Color Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason impressed with what he has seen from the Bulldogs (5-0, 3-0).
“The Georgia Bulldogs are a well-oiled machine,” Mason said. “Kirby is doing a terrific job of assembling talent. Those guys play extremely fast in all three phases.”
Despite some slow offensive starts in each of their previous starts, Georgia’s results are still impressive.
The Bulldogs are averaging 43.2 points per game and 470 yards of offense. Compare that with Vanderbilt (3-2, 0-1), which is averaging 27.6 points and 414.2 yards per game.
However, the way Smart sees it, there’s still plenty of work to be done.
After playing Vanderbilt, Georgia’s schedule gets a whole lot tougher, starting with next week’s game at No. 5 LSU, followed by Florida, Kentucky and Auburn.
“I don’t think any coach in the country could tell you right now that they don’t need to improve,” Smart said. “We certainly have some areas to work on and get better at. We had those same concerns and same areas for me last year. It’s just a different team, different spots, and we have to continue to work and get better.”
Mason is still waiting for his Commodores to play to their potential as well. Five games into their season, he’s still waiting.
Vanderbilt opened its season with back-to-back wins over Middle Tennessee (35-7) and Nevada (41-10) before losing two straight to Notre Dame (22-17) and South Carolina (31-14). Last week, it took everything the Commodores had to beat FCS opponent Tennessee State 31-27.
“I don’t know what that (potential) looks like yet,” Mason said. “I’ve seen flashes, but I haven’t seen this group play 60 minutes and four quarters. That’s what it will take to play well down at Georgia.”
Still, you won’t catch Smart taking the Commodores for granted.
Two years ago, in Smart’s first year, Vanderbilt upset Gerogia at Sanford Stadium 17-16 after the Bulldogs failed to convert a fourth-and-1 play with 56 seconds left.
With senior quarterback Kyle Shurmur back for another year, along with a talented receiving corps, Smart knows the Bulldogs cannot afford to overlook the Commodores, who he expects will try to challenge his secondary.
“It’s a choice that their offensive coordinator has to make, shots that they want to take down the field,” Smart said. “I don’t think it’s a matter that Tennessee couldn’t do it or South Carolina couldn’t. All of them can do it.
“They can match protect and throw the ball deep; they can free release and throw the ball deep. Kyle does a great job of doing that.
“He has a tremendous receiving corp. He’s very intelligent. He understands the system he plays in. He’s able to know what coverage you’re in. He knows where to go with the ball. He knows what matchups are right.
“He’s a really good quarterback that understands the game and one of the many in the SEC now that are grown up. Two years ago, all these guys we were playing against were freshmen. Now they’re all older and better players, but certainly he’ll be able to test us deep because they have the capability of doing that.”