Three Keys: Vanderbilt vs. UMass

After an exciting win over Auburn last Saturday the Commodores have a chance at getting back to .500 for the season when they take on UMass this weekend. Though there are a slew of winnable games left on the schedule this is simply a game Vanderbilt has to win if the team wants to go bowling in 2012. Here three keys which will help the 'Dores take down the Minutemen.

After an exciting win over Auburn last Saturday the Commodores have a chance at getting back to .500 for the season when they take on UMass this weekend. Though there are a slew of winnable games left on the schedule this is simply a game Vanderbilt has to win if the team wants to go bowling in 2012. Here three keys which will help the 'Dores take down the Minutemen.

1) Stay focused

With a winless team coming into their home stadium it would be pretty easy for any team to get complacent. UMass is finding the transition into life as a fully fledged FBS program to be a hard one, and their 0-7 record hasn't really involved that many close games. Ironically by far the closest UMass has come to a win was against still unbeaten Ohio as the Bobcats escaped with a three point victory. Coming up against an SEC opponent after a plethora of MAC games might be just what the Minutemen need to lift their game and cause the Commodores some serious problems.

That is why James Franklin has been downplaying the significance of the opponent's record all week and is getting his team in the right frame of mind. To Franklin it matters little if the team he is playing is Alabama or Northwest Southern Alabama Tech, he wants Vandy to come out and execute the game plan to perfection. A focused and disciplined Commodore team should be able to dispatch the Minutemen on Saturday.

2) Use the depth

Vanderbilt may not be a deep team by the standards of some of the SEC heavyweights, but this weekend is a perfect time to use that depth. As a transition program, UMass has only had one year of FBS recruiting and as a result they only dress around 85 even when fully healthy (which they are not). In addition, with all the starting skill position players graduating from last year there has been a learning curve which the Minutemen have found hard to adjust to. This would be the perfect game for Franklin to mix and match his defensive personnel, making sure to keep fresh players in the front seven especially as the UMass linemen get tired. This should also be a game in which he can play Zac Stacy sparingly, keeping him fresh for the stretch run.

3) Find more red zone success

As well as Vandy has played at times this year the red zone offense has been a cause on constant frustration. The Commodores have scored touchdowns on just 10-of-26 trips inside the 10, a number that has to improve to reach a bowl game. Vanderbilt should find their way into the red zone on plenty of occasions this weekend and one of the more noteworthy aspects of the game is seeing how well the 'Dores do in this area.

VandyMania.com Top Stories