HEAD TO HEAD: VANDY VS. MISSISSIPPI STATE

Vanderbilt meets Mississippi State on Saturday in Starkville. VandyMania.com's Don Yates compares the two teams in several critical areas. He also makes a prediction on the game's final score.

VANDERBILT PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
MISSISSIPPI STATE PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: EVEN
REMARKS: Vandy is 11th in the SEC and 105th in the FBS in passing yards per game (182.1 YPG). Johnny McCrary has emerged as the Vanderbilt starting quarterback after solid outings at Missouri and Old Dominion. On the season McCrary has thrown for 806 yards while going 61 for 114 for nine TDs and six interceptions. Against Florida McCrary completed just 14-of-35 passes for 160 yards, a TD and a pair of interceptions. Patton Robinette (30 of 42, 305 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs) is the backup. Tight end Steven Scheu (33 catches, 3 TDs) is the top Commodore receiver. Latevius Rayford (28 catches) and C.J. Duncan (26 catches) are two other reliable targets. Another tight end, Davis Dudchock, caught five passes for 83 yards in the loss to Florida. Vanderbilt blockers have given up 16 sacks this season.

Mississippi State is last in the SEC and 119th nationally in passing yards allowed per game allowing 292 per game. Against Alabama MSU allowed 211 yards passing on 19 of 31 completions. Defensive end Preston Smith has terrorized opposing quarterbacks all season. He's got eight sacks and 15 quarterback hurries so far this season. MSU's "pycho defense" has sacked opposing QBs a total of 33 times in 2014. MSU secondary has picked off opponents 12 times. Two Bulldogs, cornerback Will Redmond and linebacker Richie Brown, each have three interceptions.

VANDERBILT RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
MISSISSIPPI STATE RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: MISSISSIPPI STATE
REMARKS: Vanderbilt is last in the SEC and 110th nationally in rushing offense averaging 114 yards per game rushing the ball for a 3.6 YPC average. The Commodores have scored just six rushing TDs in 10 games. Ralph Webb leads 'Dore rushers with 843 yards on 185 carries (4.6 YPC) and three TDs. In his last game against Florida Webb gained 83 yards on 16 carries (5.2 YPC) with a long run of 20 yards. Dallas Rivers is a big, strong back who has gained 184 yards on 49 carries (3.8 YPC). Jerron Seymour has 19 career rushing TDs but has rarely seen the field in 2014 (update: He's now off the team).

Mississippi State is third in the SEC and 21st nationally in rushing defense allowing just 126 yards per game. On Saturday the Bulldog defense held Alabama to 124 yards rushing on 32 attempts (3.9 YPC) and two touchdowns. Bama's longest run during the game was 11 yards. Junior linebacker Benardrick McKinney (6-5, 249) leads the Bulldogs in tackles with 58. He also has 7 1/2 tackles for losses.

MISSISSIPPI STATE PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
VANDERBILT PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: MISSISSIPPI STATE
REMARKS: The Bulldogs are fifth in the SEC and 35th nationally in passing yards per game (269.5). Quarterback Dak Prescott is the top dog in the MSU offensive attack. He's passed for over 2,500 yards and 20 touchdowns this season while completing 60 percent of his passes. Against Bama Prescott completed 27-of-48 passes for 290 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. De'Runnya Wilson is Prescott's top target with 30 catches for six TDs. Four other Bulldogs have at least 20 catches and eight MSU players have caught 10 or more passes. MSU blockers have allowed 17 sacks this season.

Vandy is 11th in the SEC and 70th nationally in passing yards allowed per game (231). The Commodore passing defense has allowed opponents to complete 61.5 percent of their passes for 2,309 yards, 15 TDs and just four interceptions. Taurean Ferguson has half of Vandy's paltry four interceptions. Vanderbilt players have sacked opposing QBs 14 times this season with Caleb Azubike leading the way with four sacks. Stephen Weatherly has 3 1/2 sacks.

MISSISSIPPI STATE RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
VANDERBILT RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: MISSISSIPPI STATE
REMARKS: Vanderbilt is allowing an average of 175 rushing yards per game. Against Florida Vandy allowed 214 yards on 50 carries (4.3 YPC). Despite the high yardage allowed the 'Dores had a goal line stand that stuffed Gator runs on successive plays. Redshirt freshman middle linebacker Nigel Bowden leads the Commodores in tackles with 74. He also has a sack and two other tackles for losses. Cornerback Torren McGaster has 55 stops.

MSU has a strong rushing attack, gaining an average of 243 yards per conference which is third best in the conference and 18th nationally. Josh Robinson is the top ground gainer in the Bulldog offense. He's gained 1,021 yards and scored 11 touchdowns in 10 games while averaging 6.5 yards per carry. However, in his most recent outing at Alabama he gained just 37 yards on 12 carries. The QB Prescott is the team's second leading rusher with 861 yards (5.2 YPC) and 11 touchdowns. State boasts a big, strong offensive line led by senior left tackle Blaine Clausell (6-7, 315).

SPECIAL TEAMS
EDGE: MISSISSIPPI STATE
REMARKS: Vanderbilt kicker Tommy Openshaw has connected on 7-of-9 field goals this season with a long kick of 48-yards. Punter Colby Cooke has 55 punts for a 42.7 yard average and a long of 68 yards. Vandy has had one field goal and one punt blocked this season. However, the Commodores have blocked a punt and kick themselves. Trey Ellis (6.3 YPR) and Darius Sims (5.5 YPR) are the Commodore punt return men. Sims also returns kickoffs (28.6 YPR) and returned two kickoffs for TDs against South Carolina earlier in the season. Vanderbilt kick/punt return coverage units have been decent this season but the Commodores did allow a 74-yard kickoff return earlier in the season.

Mississippi State kicker Evan Sobiesk has made 8-of-9 field goals this season with a long of 37 yards. He made two field goals (23, 32 yards) in the loss to Alabama. Devon Bell averages 42.8 yards on 38 punts with a long of 70 yards. Opponents have blocked one MSU punt. Jamoral Graham averages 4.8 yards per punt return with a long of 21 yards. Robert Johnson has 10 kickoff returns with a long of 29 yards. Brandon Holloway also return kickoffs and has a 19.8 average with a long return of 23 yards.

COACHING
EDGE: MISSISSIPPI STATE
REMARKS: Vanderbilt's Derek Mason is in his first season as a head coach and has led the 'Dores to a 3-7 record. He won his first college victory against UMass earlier in the season. In 2012 Mason was a finalist for the Broyles Award, given annually to the nation's top assistant coach, after directing a defense that ranks among the best in the nation and finest in Stanford history. Mason has some NFL coaching experience serving stints with the Vikings, Raiders, Giants and Rams.

Dan Mullen is in his sixth season as head coach at Mississippi State. He led MSU to the No. 1 ranking which recently ended due to the loss to the Crimson Tide. At 44-29, he is in third place in MSU all-time victories. Mullen owns the highest winning percentage as a coach at State since the late Allyn McKeen from 1939-48 (.764). Prior to Mullen’s arrival, MSU was 21-42.

INTANGIBLES
EDGE: EVEN
REMARKS: The Bulldogs lead the all-time series with Vandy 12-7-2. MSU also leads in games played in Starkville, 6-1. MSU lost to Alabama on Saturday ending their quest for an undefeated season. They might be ripe for a letdown or they could be bouncing off the walls to take out their frustrations on the Commodores. Vanderbilt is last in the SEC and 118th nationally in third down conversion rate at just 30.4 percent. The Commodores are 10th in the conference and 72nd the FBS in third down conversion defense (40.4%). MSU is fourth in the SEC and 29th nationally in third down conversion rate at 45.2 percent. The Bulldogs are fourth in the SEC and 19th nationally in third down conversion defense (33.6%).

PREDICTION: Mississippi State 40, Vanderbilt 10.

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