Head-to-head: Vanderbilt vs. Auburn

On Saturday Vanderbilt faces perhaps its most important game of the season up to this point when it hosts Auburn. VandyMania.com compares each team in several critical areas and predicts the final score.

Vanderbilt passing offense
Auburn passing defense
Edge: Vandy

Vanderbilt comes into the game with the top ranked receiving duo in the conference. Jordan Matthews leads the SEC averaging 7.2 receptions per game with 43 receptions, 617 yards receiving, and 3 touchdowns. Redshirt sophomore Chris Boyd has made some impressive catches in traffic and leads the Vandy receivers --averaging 21.3 yards per catch and is second on the team, with 19 catches for 405 yards.

Quarterback Jordan Rodgers has consistently showed improvement throughout the season completing 74 for 134 pass attempts for 1,068 passing yards and 3 scores.

The Tigers come into the game ranked 60th in the country allowing opponents 225 passing yards per game. Free safety Demetruce McNeal leads the Tiger secondary with 52 tackles, including 5 for a loss. At strong safety, sophomore Jermaine Whitehead has been equally impressive with 50 tackles--including 2 for a loss, a sack, and 5 pass break ups.

Auburn's secondary has yet to come up with an interception this year. The lone pick belongs to weak side linebacker Daren Bates. The Tigers pass defense ranks tenth in the SEC and has allowed 10 touchdowns through the air in six games.

Vanderbilt rushing offense
Auburn rushing defense
Edge: Vandy

The 79th ranked Vanderbilt rushing offense (149 yards rushing per game) squares off against an Auburn defense (191.5 yards rushing per game), ranked 93rd in the nation.

Redshirt senior Zac Stacy leads the 'Dores with 499 yards rushing and 4 scores while averaging 5 yards per carry. Similar to a year ago, Vanderbilt's run game struggled in the first few games but has tremendously improved since the bye week. Vandy racked up 171 rushing yards against a Florida team that ranks third in the conference in rushing defense. Two weeks ago at Missouri, Stacy scratched and clawed for every yard with a career high--29 carries for 72 yards and 2 scores.

Redshirt junior Wesley Tate ran well against Florida with 66 yards on 6 carries. True freshman Brian Kimbrow is a nice way to mix things up for the 'Dores with dangerous speed. The freshman running back has rushed for 185 yards and a score, averaging 7.7 yards per carry.

The only team in the SEC that allows more rushing yards than Auburn is the Commodores. Auburn is led by weak side linebacker Daren Bates who is second in the SEC with 70 tackles--including a team-high 5½ for a loss, two sacks, and Auburn's only interception.

Defensive end Corey Lemonier has been a force, leading the Tiger defensive line with 21 tackles, 5 for a loss, a team-high 5 sacks, 8 quarterback hurries, and a forced fumble.

Auburn gave up 200 rushing yards and 2 rushing scores against Ole Miss last week. The week before against a struggling Arkansas, the Rebels gave up 2 scores and 116 yards rushing.

Auburn rushing offense
Vanderbilt rushing defense
Edge: Auburn
The Tigers rushing offense ranks 11th in the conference and is tied for 94th in the country allowing 125.5 yards rushing per game. Running back Tre Mason leads Auburn with 389 yards rushing with 3 scores, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. The sophomore had a career high 2 rushing touchdowns against Ole Miss last week.

Onterio McCalebb has made plays for the Tigers all over the field. McCalebb ran for 128 yards and a score against Louisiana-Monroe; the senior is second on the team with 293 rushing yards and 2 scores.

Vandy's rushing defense ranks last in the SEC and 100th in the country, allowing opposing teams 203.5 rushing yards per game. The 'Dores allowed 326 yards rushing against the Gators, 302 to Georgia, and 191 to Northwestern. Problems with outside containment has been a recurring theme for the 'Dores; one of the biggest issues is allowing the quarterback to gain yards on the ground when there's nowhere to throw.

Middle linebacker Chase Garnham leads the group with 38 tackles, 3½ for a loss, and 2 sacks. Outside linebacker Karl Butler has been a force with 29 tackles, a team high 7 tackles for loss, a sack, and a forced fumble.

Defensive end Johnell Thomas leads the defensive line with 17 tackles, including 2 for a loss. Opposite Thomas, redshirt junior Walker May has been terrific on the edge tallying 14 tackles, 3½ for a loss, a sack, and 3 quarterback hurries.

Auburn passing offense
Vanderbilt passing defense
Edge: Vandy

Auburn's passing offense ranks 111th in the country and 13th in the conference averaging 162 yards passing per game. Sophomore quarterback Kiehl Frazier leads the Tigers with 664 yards passing with 2 scores and a 54.4 completion percentage.

Junior quarterback Clint Moseley started his first game last week against the Rebels and was 11 for 18 for 112 yards passing. The week before against Arkansas, Mosely came off the bench to complete 13 for 21 passes for 163 yards passing and a score. Mosely has thrown three interceptions in the last two games.

Senior receiver Emory Blake leads the Tigers in catches (26), receiving yards (378), and touchdown receptions (2). Blake had a career-best 118 yards receiving on 10 receptions against the Razorbacks. The Tigers have gotten their money's worth out of tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, who is second on the team with 15 catches for 139 receiving yards.

The Vandy passing defense ranks seventh in the country and third in the SEC allowing opponents 148.2 yards passing per game. The Commodores have not come close to their interception total a year ago with just two interceptions through six games. The 'Dores held Florida's Jeff Driskel to 11 for 20 for 77 yards passing last week.

Free safety Kenny Ladler has been a tackling machine, leading Vandy with 42 tackles, a sack, an interception, and a forced fumble. Junior cornerback Andre Hal has had shutdown moments and leads the team with six passes deflected and 21 tackles. Trey Wilson has Vandy's second interception which he returned 100 yards for a score against Presbyterian.

Special Teams
Edge: Auburn
With the exception of the return game, Vandy had been relatively impressive on special teams until last week against Florida. Carey Spear had a field goal blocked, Vandy was fooled by a fake punt, fake PAT, and gave up a long kick return to help lead to the defeat against the Gators.

Place kicker Carey Spear has been solid thus far for the 'Dores, hitting 10 for 13 field goal attempts with a long of 44 yards in the opener against South Carolina.

Senior punter Richard Kent has been outstanding for the 'Dores, averaging 45.1 yards per punt with a long punt of 67 yards, 9 punts of 50 yards or more, and 39% of his punts pinning opponents inside their 20-yard line.

Though the return game leaves much to be desired for the 'Dores, Jordan Matthews is fourth in the conference averaging 8.8 yards per punt return. Brian Kimbrow has handled kick return duties and has been caught behind the 25-yard line multiple times. Kimbrow has also come very close to breaking one with a long return of 43 yards against Georgia.

Auburn's Onterio McCalebb is third in the conference averaging 30.6 yards per kick return. McCalebb had a 100-yard kick return for a score against Mississippi State.

Auburn place kicker Cody Parkey is 9 for 10 on the year with a long field goal of 46 yards last week against Ole Miss. Tiger punter Steven Clark ranks fourth in the conference averaging 41.3 yards per punt with a season long of 54 yards.

Junior Corey Lemonier blocked a field goal against Lousiana-Monroe for the Tigers. Defensive tackle Angelo Blackson has two blocks for the Tigers with one coming in the overtime victory over ULM.

Edge: Vandy
Vanderbilt is 13th in the conference in red zone offense on 16 of 23 trips with 8 touchdowns and 8 field goals. The 'Dores have given up three costly turnovers in scoring position. Vandy is coming off an impressive offensive performance against the Gators. If they play anything like they did against Florida, it could very well be a shootout.

Vandy is 1-2 at home this season while the Tigers are 0-3 away from home.

Auburn ranks 9th in the conference in red zone offense scoring on 11 of 14 trips with 4 touchdowns and 3 turnovers. Auburn has struggled in the pro-style offense. The Tigers have been outscored by opponents 159-97.
After a close loss against LSU the Tigers got blown out against a struggling Arkansas team, and then again in Oxford, Miss., last week against Ole Miss.

Edge: Even
Auburn head coach Gene Chizik might be on the hottest seat in the SEC. The Tigers are still searching for an SEC win with their lone win coming against Louisiana-Monroe in overtime. A loss against the Commodores with games against Texas A&M, Georgia, and Alabama left on the schedule would make the 1-5 Tigers postseason hopes highly unlikely.

Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin's Commodores have shown improvement since the bye week. With the visiting Tigers coming to Nashville, the 'Dores need to show some improvement in their outside containment issues. The special teams are another area that must be prepared against one of the top return teams in the SEC. A win against Auburn with upcoming games with Massachusetts, Kentucky, and Wake Forest left on the schedule would help the Vandy faithful feel a lot better about the remainder of the season after a rough start against tough teams.

PREDICTION: Vanderbilt 27, Auburn 17

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