HEAD TO HEAD: VANDERBILT VS. MIDDLE TENNESSEE

Vanderbilt meets Middle Tennessee on Saturday in nearby Murfreesboro. 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.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE PASSING DEFENSE

EDGE: EVEN

REMARKS:  Vanderbilt's passing attack is fifth in the SEC and 35th nationally averaging 275 yards per game. Last week at Ole Miss Johnny McCrary was solid, completing 23-of-42 passes for 194 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. His favorite target was Trent Sherfield who snared seven catches for 55 yards. Both Steven Scheu and Caleb Scott made big third down receptions to keep drives going. Each had five catches. VU running back Ralph Webb scored the only TD of the game for the Dores when he caught a 7-yard pass from McCrary. Sherfield is No. 1 in the SEC in receptions per game (7).   

MTSU ranks 77th nationally in pass defense allowing 231 yards per game. However, in pass efficiency defense the Blue Raiders rank much better at 22nd.  One big reason for the high pass efficiency defense rating is that MTSU has intercepted seven opponent passes.   Cornerback Jeremy Cutrer has three of those seven interceptions.  MTSU has nine sacks so far this season. Linebackers T.T. Barber and Trey Wafford along with defensive end Chris Hale each have two sacks.  

VANDERBILT RUSHING OFFENSE

VS.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE RUSHING DEFENSE

EDGE: MIDDLE TENNESSEE

REMARKS:  Vandy's rushing game has not progressed as well as expected under new offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig.  The Commodores are 13th in the SEC and 103rd nationally running the ball, averaging just 137 yards per game.  Against Ole Miss Ralph Webb had his best game of the season rushing for 90 yards on 25 carries.  He finally broke loose for a big gain in, with a 43-yard run down the sideline. Dallas Rivers had three carries for six yards before being injured.  Freshman Josh Crawford filled in for Rivers and did well, picking up 20 yards on six attempts but unfortunately was also injured.  

The Blue Raiders have a solid rushing defense allowing just 120 yard per game. Last week at Illinois MTSU allowed 140 yards on 39 carries (3.6 ypc).  T.T. Barber has been named defensive player of the week by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association (TSWA). In the first four games he has 30 tackles along with four tackles for loss, two sacks and two quarterback hurries

MIDDLE TENNESSEE PASSING OFFENSE

VS.

VANDERBILT PASSING DEFENSE

EDGE: VANDERBILT

REMARKS:  Middle has the 21st best passing offense in the nation, averaging 315 yards per game.  Redshirt freshman Brent Stockstill has passed for 1,221 yards and 12 touchdowns with only two interceptions.  Stockstill ranks fifth nationally in touchdown passes. His top two receivers are Richie James (34 catches) and Ed Batties (30 catches).  MTSU blockers have allowed six sacks this season.  In the loss to Illinois, Stockstill was sacked three times in the first half.   

The Commodore pass defense is ranked sixth in the SEC and 45th nationally in pass defense, allowing an average of 195 yards per game.  Last week in Oxford Vandy held quarterback Chad Kelly passed for 321 yards while completing 24-of-42 passes for one touchdown.  Vandy did a great job slowing him down forcing two interceptions and sacking him twice. Safeties Oren Burks and Jahmel McIntosh each had interceptions for the Commodores. Vanderbilt has six sacks so far this season.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE RUSHING OFFENSE

VS.

VANDERBILT RUSHING DEFENSE

EDGE: VANDERBILT

REMARKS:  Middle Tennessee's rushing offense ranks 82nd nationally running the ball, averaging 161.5 yards per game. Senior running back Jordan Parker leads the Blue Raiders in rushing with 305 yards on 61 carries (5.0 ypc) and four touchdowns. Backup Shane Tucker has 115 yards on 48 attempts (3.0 ypc).  Middle has lost seven fumbles this season.   

Vanderbilt's rushing defense is ranked seventh in the SEC and 37th nationally allowing 126 yards per game. Last week at Ole Miss Vandy held the high powered Rebel offense to 151 rushing yards on 42 carries (3.6 ypc) and two touchdowns.  Linebacker Darreon Herring is one of the Commodores top run stoppers with 14 tackles.  Safety Oren Burks has 16 tackles. 

SPECIAL TEAMS

EDGE: EVEN

REMARKS:   Tommy Openshaw has connected on 9 of 13 field goals this season with a long of 49. Openshaw also punt for the Commodores, averaging 44.3 yards per punt.  Vanderbilt's Darrius Sims is fourth in the SEC in kickoff return, averaging 22.7 yards per return. Last year he returned two in one game for touchdowns against South Carolina.  Vanderbilt punt coverage team allowed a 77-yard return against Georgia. Vandy's kickoff return cover units have been solid.  Vanderbilt blocked a field goal against Ole Miss last week but allowed the Rebel to block a Commodore punt. 

Middle Tennessee kicker Cody Clark has made 3-of-5 field goals attempted this season with a long of 42 yards.   Last week Clark missed a 43-yard field goal that would have won the game for MTSU. Blue Raider punter Trevor Owens has 20 punts for a 39.6 average and a long of 68.  Owens has had two of his punts blocked this season including one against Illinois. Jeremiah Bryson averages 25.3 yards per kickoff return with a long of 34 yards.  Ed Batties averages four yards per punt return with a long of 19.  MTSU's kickoff coverage team has given up one return for a touchdown.  

COACHING 

EDGE: MIDDLE TENNESSEE

REMARKS:Derek Mason is in his second season at Vanderbilt with a 4-12 (.250) overall record.  Prior to Vanderbilt Mason was a successful defensive coordinator at Stanford.  In 2012 Mason was a finalist for the Broyles Award, given annually to the nation's top assistant coach.  Mason has some NFL coaching experience serving stints with the Vikings, Raiders, Giants and Rams.

Rick Stockstill is 59-57 (.508) as a head coach. In 10 years in Murfreesboro he had six six-win seasons and led four Middle teams to bowl games.  In his first season as head coach the Blue Raiders were Co-Sun Belt Champions.

INTANGIBLES

EDGE: EVEN

REMARKS: Vanderbilt has lost three in a row to MTSU but leads the overall series 12-3. MTSU has the home field advantage but a large influx of Vandy fans gives the Blue Raiders a chance to sell out their 30,000 seat stadium. Vandy is 113th nationally in turnover margin (-1.25).  The Commodores are 127th in red zone offense but 17th in red zone defense.  MTSU is 55th nationally in turnover margin (+0.25), 34th in red zone offense and fifth in red zone defense.   

PREDICTION:  Vanderbilt 27, Middle Tennessee 17.   Commodores have what it takes to win this but the big question is whether or not they'll actually get it done.  


VandyMania.com Top Stories