MASSACHUSETTS PASSING DEFENSE
Senior receiver Jordan Matthews is ranked fifth in the country, averaging 131.7 yards receiving per game. Matthews leads the team with 24 receptions for 395 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Vanderbilt's passing offense ranks 58th in the country averaging 240 yards passing per game.
Senior receiver Jonathan Krause will continue to try to make plays to take pressure off Matthews. Krause is second on the team with nine receptions for 136 yards receiving. True freshman Jordan Cunningham led the team with seven receptions for 67 yards receiving against Austin Peay as the staff continues to acclimate him to college play.
Senior safety Devin Brown leads the UMass secondary with 25 tackles, including one for a loss, and an interception. Next to Brown is sophomore Joey Colton who started two games as a true freshman. Colton is third on the team with 24 tackles, including two for a loss, the team's only sack, and two passes defended.
Sophomore cornerback Trey Dudley-Giles has 10 consecutive starts for the Minutemen. Opposite Giles is redshirt sophomore Randall Jette who has eight tackles, a team-high two passes defended, and a fumble recovery. UMass passing defense is tied for 44th in the country with opponents throwing for 199.7 yards passing per game.
MASSACHUSETTS RUSHING DEFENSE
Inside linebacker Stanley Andre leads the team with 15 consecutive starts dating back to the 2012 season. Redshirt junior inside linebacker Ed Saint-Vil leads the Minutemen defense with 31 tackles and a forced fumble. UMass rushing defense ranks 124th in the nation, allowing opponents to run for 323 yards rushing per game.
Redshirt junior defensive tackle Daniel Maynes leads the defensive line with 13 tackles and a forced fumble. Graduating senior Justin Anderson will get the start against the 'Dores. Senior defensive tackle Kevin Byrne leads the team with 26 career starts and is also back in the starting lineup for Vanderbilt.
VANDERBILT PASSING DEFENSE
Sophomore receiver Tajae Sharpe leads the receiving corps with 21 receptions for 196 yards receiving, and a touchdown. In two starts this season sophomore receiver Bernard Davis has six catches for 40 yards receiving and a score. Sophomore tight end Derek Beck is second on the team with 11 catches for 72 yards receiving. The future may be bright for the Minutemen with a valuable number of young skilled players with playing experience.
The Vanderbilt secondary has traditionally been a key component of the success of the Commodore defense. The 'Dores currently rank 70th in the country allowing 232 yards passing per game. Free safety Kenny Ladler leads the team with 24 tackles, including one for a loss. Next to him at strong safety, Javon Marshall is second on the team with 19 tackles, including 14 solo stops.
Senior cornerbacks Andre Hal and Steven Clarke will dare opposing quarterbacks to throw their way. Hal leads the team with five passes defended, and Clarke returned an interception 69 yards against South Carolina
VANDERBILT RUSHING DEFENSE
UMass rushed for 123 yards against Kansas State, 64 against Maine, and 100 yards rushing against Wisconsin. Sophomore quarterback A.J. Doyle is second on the team with 12 rushes for 31 yards rushing.
Outside linebacker Darreon Herring leads the Commodore rushing defense with 17 tackles, one sack, and three passes defended. With senior middle linebacker Chase Garnham out with an injury, sophomore Jake Sealand will get the start. Though he didn't start as a linebacker, senior Karl Butler has the most experience among the linebacking corps. Butler has 11 tackles, including one for a loss, and two passes defended.
Vanderbilt's rushing defense ranks 79th in the country with opponents averaging 170.33 yards rushing per game. Junior defensive end Kyle Woestmann has been a force in the backfield, leading the defensive line with 14 tackles and two sacks. Sophomore Caleb Azubike is another pass rushing threat who will see action with redshirt senior Walker May and redshirt freshman Stephen Weatherly. Azubike, May, and Weatherly are tied for third on the team with one sack.
Senior place kicker Carey Spear nailed a 54-yard field against South Carolina that currently ranks second-best in the nation behind Chris Boswell's (Rice) field goal of 56 yards. Spear has hit two of three field goal attempts, with the lone miss coming from 38 yards out in the win over Austin Peay.
Jonathan Krause has returned seven punts this season averaging 4.9 yards per punt return. The senior is a dangerous threat after returning two punts for touchdowns a year ago. True freshman Darrius Sims is listed as the starting kick returner and leads the team averaging 20.5 yards per kick return.
Trey Dudley-Giles handles kicks and punt returns for the Minutemen averaging 6.7 yards per punt return. The sophomore averages 26.9 yards per return on kickoff returns with a season long return of 41 yards.
Sophomore place kicker Blake Lucas is 0 for 2 in field goal attempts, with misses of 47 and 23 yards.
Senior punter Colter Johnson averages 36.2 yards per punt, with a season long of 57 yards--his only punt of 50 yards or more this year. Johnson has pinned opponents inside their 20-yard line six times this season.
The Minutemen suffered a 45-0 beat down in the opener against Wisconsin after giving up some big runs. Last week UMass fell 37-7 to Kansas State but gave away three scoring plays of 25 yards or more. Look for the Minutemen to try to take advantage of the 'Dores young linebacker group with Chase Garnham injured.
There is a lot of excitement about the first ever visit of a SEC team to the UMass campus and the Minutemen will be pumped to play. UMass will continue to build itself into a Football Bowl Subdivision team and returns a number of last season's freshmen with playing experience.
Franklin will no doubt work on getting the 'Dores out of the first quarter slumps they've been prone to. While it looked like they might overcome it in the opener against Ole Miss, it would come back to haunt them. There's little question it affected the outcome of the South Carolina game. Even against Austin Peay the 'Dores seemed sluggish coming out of the gates.
Massachusetts head coach Charley Molnar enters his second season of building the Minutemen into a FBS team and as a member of the Mid-American Conference. The Minutemen finished last season with a 1-11 overall record and 1-7 MAC record. UMass earned its first FBS win with a 22-14 victory at Akron.
PREDICTION: Vanderbilt 35, Massachusetts 13