By Russell Lorentz, from Vandy Insider
Vanderbilt Game Preview:
(RV) Vanderbilt Commodores (3-0) vs. #1 Alabama Crimson Tide (3-0)
Line: Alabama -18.5
When: Saturday Sept. 23rd, 2:30 p.m., CBS
Site: Vanderbilt Stadium – Nashville, TN
What to Watch For:
Vandy is rolling, as this is Derek Mason’s most complete football team. However, in week four, the ‘Dores face a tall task, in a game where most do not expect them to be competitive against perennial power Alabama.
Vandy proved they’re for real, by beating then No. 18 Kansas State, in a game that tested the Commodores fortitude in the final stanzas of the ball game. Vanderbilt’s growth is evident, because past teams have relinquished those up-and-down affairs.
Keys to a Vanderbilt victory:
- Offensive Balance: Ralph Webb has still been the focal point of many scouting reports despite Kyle Shurmur’s progression. It will be extremely difficult to run against the Crimson Tide, as the Tide rank eighth (80.3 yds. per game) among FBS schools. Look for Offensive Coordinator Andy Ludwig to use the pass to open up holes for Webb and Khari Blasingame early. Vanderbilt replaced Barrett Gouger and Will Holden on the offensive line and it showed itself in run blocking against the Wildcats.
- Offense Aiding the Defense: Shocking to some, but Vanderbilt’s defense will keep them in this ball game. The Commodore defense proves stingy as they lead the country in total defense, giving up just 198.3 yards a game. The Commodores held Wildcat QB Jesse Ertz (10/28, 76 yards passing) at bay. It’s ultra-important for the ‘Dores offense to give the defense rest.
- Containing Jalen Hurts: Hurts was the Offensive Player of the Year in the SEC in 2016, but has one weakness– throwing the football. While an explosive runner, Hurts (13/31, 131 yds.) struggled in the National Championship Game against Clemson, and threw for just 96 yards against Florida State in the season opener.
- Prevent the big play: Alabama flips the momentum of a game with either a defensive score, a special teams score, or an explosive play offensively to the likes of Calvin Ridley deep for a score in what seems like nearly every game. Make the Crimson Tide earn everything.
- Contain Alabama’s bevy of running backs: If Vanderbilt’s defense contains the Tide’s backfield to a point, Hurts will throw more –advantage Vandy.
SEC Nation is set to broadcast live from the The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons from 9-11 a.m. CT on Saturday morning, the second time on campus.
The SEC Nation crew features host Laura Rutledge alongside analysts Tim Tebow, Marcus Spears and Paul Finebaum.
The program made is first trip to West End for the Commodores’ home matchup with Georgia in 2015.