What To Watch: Auburn at Vanderbilt

Nashville, Tenn.--Vanderbilt quarterback Greg Zolman needs just 50 yards to break the Commodores' all-time passing yardage record.

The fifth-year senior should easily break the mark at some point during the Vanderbilt-Auburn game Saturday. How far he goes past the record is expected to go a long way towards determining a winner on Saturday night as the Auburn Tigers return to SEC action vs. the Commodores.

Statistical Matchups

Based on the way Zolman has passed the football this season, it should not take him long to break Whit Taylor's school record. The senior has thrown for 789 yards in three games with an average of 33 attempts per contest. Based on Zolman's lack of success vs. the Tigers in his last outing, a 33-0 Tiger victory last year at Jordan-Hare Stadium, it is not a given that the record is coming this week. The left-handed signal caller completed just 11 of 25 passes for 66 yards and was benched in the second half in favor of senior Tim Olmstead. The backup didn't fair much better, completing just four of nine passes for 21 yards.

Zolman will be facing different personnel in the Tiger secondary this time around and a change in the VU offensive scheme to use more shotgun formations has given the senior more time to pick apart opposing defenses. How the young AU secondary responds to the challenge of slowing Zolman and company down is just one of the things to watch as the Tigers travel to Nashville to take on the Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium.

Experience vs. Athleticism: Zolman vs. the AU Cornerbacks

This matchup would seem to favor Zolman, who stands six-foot-four and has a rifle for an arm. His stature should allow him to find one of his three starting wide receivers amongst a relatively short pair of Tiger cornerbacks. It helps that his trio of starting wideouts are six-foot-three M.J. Garrett, six-foot-two Dan Stricker and six-foot-two Chris Young. The Auburn cornerbacks are fast and athletic, but the two starters, Roderick Hood and Travaris Robinson, give away atleast four inches to the Vandy receivers. Hood made his first start at cornerback last week against Syracuse and was challenged little against the run-oriented Orangemen. Robinson has looked lost at times trying to shut down opposing receivers. The Tigers do have a pair of backups who are have seen action this season and can add height to the lineup if Zolman starts exploiting Robinson and Hood. Freshman Carlos Rogers stands six-foot-one and started the first two games for the Tigers while junior Horace Willis, six-foot-even, has yet to start a game but has impressed the AU coaches in practice.

The Gumby Factor

How the Tigers bounce back from a demoralizing loss to Syracuse last week is a question that Tommy Tuberville's youngsters will have to answer in Nashville. It is their first SEC road trip and Auburn performed less-than admirably last week in the Carrier Dome. The Commodores are coming off a 28-22 victory over Division I-AA Richmond, but it did give Vandy some confidence after opening the season with a loss to MTSU and giving the Alabama game away. Redshirt freshman Jason Campbell showed nerves and lack of road experience against the Orangemen and it will be important for the Tigers' quarterback to get off to a fast start and show his teammates that he still has the confidence to lead this team to a repeat of the 2000 Western Division Championship.

Run, Run, Run...

Tuberville and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone both admitted after the Syracuse loss that they probably should have run the ball more against the Orangemen. They probably won't have to say that following this week's game with the Commodores because teams have had success against the Vandy run defense and the Tigers will likely grind out as much yardage as they can via the run Saturday.

The Commodores are yielding an SEC-worst 254 yards rushing per contest and have allowed eight rushing touchdowns this season. Auburn has four tailbacks who the coaches would not hesitate to play at any point in Saturday's game. With starter Ronnie Brown slowed by several injuries, watch for the trio of Casinious Moore, Carnell Williams and Chris Butler to get a bulk of the carries for the Tigers. Moore and Williams are also receiving threats out of the backfield and Auburn could use its open-field skills to gain big yardage against a Vandy defense that is expected to stack the line of scrimmage with eight or nine defenders to force Campbell to make quick decisions.

Passing Time

Last week in the Carrier Dome, the only quarterback sack the Tiger defense produced was erased by a penalty. If the Auburn defense doesn't have several sacks and plenty of QB hurries, this will be a much more challenging game than last year's cakewalk at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

***
Inside the Auburn Tigers Magazine and Football Newsletter

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories