Three Keys - Vanderbilt vs. Wake Forest

Vanderbilt close out the regular season this Thanksgiving weekend with a home date against the Demon Deacons. Due to an SEC mandated effort to increase the number of rivalry games at the end of the season this is the last game (for now) in this series and there is a lot on the line for the Commodores.

Vanderbilt close out the regular season this Thanksgiving weekend with a home date against the Demon Deacons. Due to an SEC mandated effort to increase the number of rivalry games at the end of the season this is the last game (for now) in this series and there is a lot on the line for the Commodores.

James Franklin will be looking to avoid a letdown after the win over Tennessee last Saturday as with a bit of help in other SEC games the Commodores could conceivably upgrade their bowl game with a victory.

Here are the three keys to victory.

1) Survive without Kenny Ladler

Kenny Ladler was ejected for targeting on a 50/50 play in the second half of the Tennessee game. It was one of those bang/bang plays that you often get in the secondary and though Ladler was clearly leading with his shoulder rather than with the crown of his helmet it was always going to be a difficult play to overturn on review. As it was the ejection didn't really hurt the 'Dores as Tennessee seemed to have no intention of even attempting to throw on a depleted secondary until desperation time.

The issue for Vanderbilt here is that because Ladler was thrown out of the game in the second half he must also sit out the first half of the next game. Ladler is having a heck of a season and he leads the SEC in interceptions and forced fumbles with five of each. Thankfully Wake Forest is no Mike Leach vintage Texas Tech through the air, but the ability of Vandy to close on the ball and make plays in the deep middle of the field is something to watch out for nonetheless.

2)Be more aggressive on offense

Only James Franklin, and presumably his coordinators, know exactly what is going to happen in terms of quarterback platooning this Saturday, but it would be nice if Vanderbilt showed more creativity on offense. Against Tennessee it got awfully predictable as the swing pass to Jordan Matthews on first down and Patton Robinette wildcat attack made it easy for the Tennessee defense to sniff out what was going on. I want to see Austyn Carta-Samuels getting the majority of the snaps on Saturday and I want to see him winging it to Matthews and Jonathan Krause downfield.

Of course I could be mistaken and the whole game plan could have been set up for the fake jump pass to win the game, but I am doubting that was so.

3) Stop Nikita Whitlock making plays

The world's smallest nose tackle is back for his senior year and he is doing an entire defensive lines work on his own. Whitlock may only go 5-11 and weighs 250 pounds, but he uses the leverage advantage that gives him to wreak havoc on opposing interior linemen. He had 17 tackles for a loss and nine sacks on the year so he will have to be doubled on passing downs to stop him just collapsing the pocket instantly. Whitlock even plays on the Deac's special teams and he has managed to add a couple of blocked kicks to his season of destruction. Watch his impact on the game because if Whitlock wins his battles it will be a long day for the Vandy offense.

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