Head-to-head: Vanderbilt vs. LSU

The No. 16 ranked LSU Tigers visit Vanderbilt on Saturday night at 6 p.m. CST (ESPNU). VandyMania.com compares different critical team areas of Vanderbilt and LSU and indicates which team has the edge. We also predict the final score.

VANDERBILT
EDGE
AREA
LSU
EDGE
COMMENTS
EVEN  
Vanderbilt rushing offense
vs.
LSU rushing defense
EVEN  
Vanderbilt displayed a solid rushing attack versus Northwestern last week as Zac Stacy, Warren Norman, Kennard Reeves, Larry Smith and Wesley Tate combined for 192 yards on the ground. LSU middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard is on five honor watch lists including the Bronko Nagurski, Butkus, Bednarik, Lott, and Rotary Lombardi watch lists. He was a preseason Sporting News All-American selection and All-SEC selection. LSU held North Carolina to under 100 yards rushing.  
 
Vanderbilt passing offense
vs.
LSU passing defense
 
Safety Brandon Taylor, who intercepted a Larry Smith pass last year to end a Commodore upset threat, is back for the Tigers as is cornerback Patrick Peterson who some have called the best cornerback in college football. Peterson made five different preseason All-America lists. Against Northwestern, Vanderbilt's passing attack showed improvement as Larry Smith completed 19 of 33 passes for 240 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Tight end Brandon Barden and wide receivers John Cole and Jonathan Krause each caught four passes. Udom Umoh contributed three catches to help the cause. Barden caught a 36-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter to keep Vandy in the game. Vandy's inexperienced offensive line allowed just one sack but Smith was on the run a couple of times. The return of Ryan Seymour who sat out the first game due to academic reasons, should improve the Commodores' pass protection even more.  
EVEN  
LSU rushing offense
vs.
Vanderbilt rushing defense
EVEN  
The Vanderbilt defense, led by linebacker Chris Marve and safety Jay Fullam, did a good job of stopping Northwestern's running backs. Each had 12 tackles and limited the NU running backs to a combined less than 100 yards. However, Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa ran well against the Vandy defense to the tune of 82 yards. LSU has a stable of solid running back led by senior Richard Murphy and junior Steven Ridley. Last week Ridely ran for 81 yards while Murphy was limited to only 2 carries. Wide receiver Russell Shepard is also a rushing threat. He picked up an impressive 67 yards in 5 carries and scored on a 50-yard run.  
 
LSU passing offense
vs.
Vanderbilt passing defense
 
On Saturday against Northwestern Vanderbilt was riddled for 19 of 21 completions for over 220 yards and three touchdowns. Although most of the completions were short screen passes, all but two were for 4 yards or more. Although his statistics are not as sharp as those of Dan Persa from Northwestern, Jordan Jefferson completed a solid 15 of 21 pass for 2 touchdowns and one interception in the win over North Carolina. LSU has several very good receivers. Reuben Randle caught 4 passes including a 51-yard touchdown pass. Mitch Joseph snared 3 receptions for 41 yards, including a 21 yarder. Veteran cornerback Jamie Graham is expected to play against the Tigers, which should improve the Commodore passing defense.  
EVEN
Special Teams
EVEN  
Senior kicker Josh Jasper, who kicked three field goals in last year's LSU win, missed his only attempt against North Carolina from 44 yards. Vanderbilt's Ryan Fowler is off to a slow start as well. He made 1 of 2 field goals against Northwestern, missing a 46-yarder but making a 30-yarder. He also missed an extra point in the first quarter, the first ever extra point he's missed. LSU's Patrick Peterson is one of the fastest kick returners in America. Vanderbilt's Warren Norman returned 3 kicks for touchdowns in 2009 earning him All-SEC honors. Josh Jasper average almost 42 yards per punt against North Carolina. Vandy's Richard Kent averaged 33 yards per punt but two of those were "pooch" punts. His longest went for 45 yards.  
 
Coaching
 
LSU's Les Miles has a 52-15 record at LSU. Although he has a BCS National Title, some have questioned his coaching moves over the past two seasons. Vandy's Robbie Caldwell has over 34 years of experience as an assistant. He is 0-1 in his first year as a head coach of the Commodores.  
 
Intangibles
 
Vanderbilt escaped the Northwestern game without any new injuries. The Commodores have given the Tigers problems in Nashville before but not since 1990 have they beaten LSU. They are due a win. LSU could be overconfident after their win over a ranked North Carolina in the Georgia Dome.  

PREDICTION: LSU 27, Vanderbilt 23.

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