NOTE: This is part of our series ranking Georgia's most important games in 2012, beginning with the least important, and continuing on to No. 1.
The criteria for ranking the games follows this basic criteria: Their role in shaping the ultimate success (or not) of the season, but with consideration given to rivalry, context of season, and caliber of opponent.
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THE BASICS: LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 6-7 overall, 2-6 in the SEC
RETURNING OFFENSIVE STARTERS: 8
RETURNING DEFENSIVE STARTERS: 7
WHEN: Sept. 22 (Georgia’s fourth game)
HOW THINGS WILL LOOK THEN: Georgia will be coming off a home game against Florida Atlantic. It will be the Bulldogs’ second SEC game, and they’ll either be looking for their first conference win or looking to start 2-0. Vanderbilt will have just played its easiest game of the year, at home against Presbyterian, following a couple challenging games: South Carolina and at Northwestern.
LEVEL OF IMPORTANCE: Somewhat, but ratcheted up after a week of watching endless reels of Todd Grantham shouting at James Franklin. Oh, you thought we might gloss over this? Of course not. You think that by then the TV folks and media will have gotten bored of the story? Ha! Who knows how competitive this game will actually be and it’s doubtful it will end up being decisive in the SEC East race. But not many other battles will be as hyped as the Grantham-Franklin death match, Part Deux. Even if they make nice before the game – and Franklin talked a couple weeks ago about his respect for Grantham – they will still match wits, Franklin’s offense vs. Grantham’s defense. Franklin’s recruiting efforts in the state of Georgia will also gain notice; he thought he had linebacker Josh Dawson, until he flipped to the Bulldogs. On top of all that, the Commodores might have a decent team again this year.
MORE ABOUT VANDERBILT: The Commodores have some skill-position talent back on offense, especially at tailback: Zac Stacy and Warren Norman are scat-backs who can make things happen in space. QB Jordan Rodgers, brother of Aaron, finished the season strong, although he needs to cut down on the interceptions (10 last year). The defense, however, has some big question marks, having lost its leader in tackles (Chris Marve), sacks (Tim Fugger) and interceptions (Casey Hayward).
WHO TO WATCH: Franklin. The former Maryland offensive coordinator has made himself the story at Vanderbilt, partly on purpose and partly by accident. He rubs some the wrong way with his antics, most recently by an overblown controversy when he said his assistants couldn’t have ugly wives. (He appeared to be joking, but had to apologize anyway.) Still, as many have said, the result is people are talking about Vanderbilt football. And when’s the last time they did that in the offseason? Plus, Franklin’s energy has helped the program on the recruiting trail, and it seems the Commodores are destined to haul in better players than ever before. Now the big question: Can Franklin coach ‘em up?
LAST TIME THEY PLAYED: Georgia needed a game-saving tackle from punter Drew Butler, after his punt was blocked, to hold on and win, 33-28. The Bulldogs avoided disaster and beat Vanderbilt for the 16th time in 17 years.
THIS TIME: It was six years ago that Vanderbilt stunned Georgia in Athens. Could it happen again? You never know. But Mark Richt said recently that he expected a little “piss and vinegar” from Grantham and his defense for this game. Richt likes Franklin, but he will step out of the way this week and let his fiery assistant make a statement with his defense.