VANDERBILT PASSING OFFENSE VS. MISSOURI PASSING DEFENSE
Vanderbilt’s offense is ninth in the SEC and 68th nationally gaining 399 yards per game. However, Vandy is just 119th in scoring offense (19.3 ppg). These struggles are due to turnovers (16) and rare success scoring touchdowns in the red zone (9 TDs in 23 tries). The Vandy passing attack is seventh in the SEC and 56th nationally averaging 242 ypg. Vandy’s Johnny McCrary has completed 132 of 232 passes for 1,428 yards, six touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Last week at South Carolina McCrary completed 21-of-42 passes for 177 yards, one TD and three interceptions. Derek Mason spoke as if a change could happen at the quarterback position but that is really not likely.
The Tigers are second in the SEC (8th nationally) in total defense, allowing just 279 yards a game. Missouri has the best passing defense in the SEC (11th nationally) allowing just 165 yards per game. The Tigers have intercepted eight opponent’s passes so far this season with free safety Ian Simon and senior linebacker Kentrell Brothers each with a pair of picks. Missouri’s defense has sacked opposing quarterbacks 20 times this season. Defensive ends Walter Brady (6) and Charles Harris (5) are the ring leaders for the Tigers in sacks.
VANDERBILT RUSHING OFFENSE VS. MISSOURI RUSHING DEFENSE
Vanderbilt’s rushing offense is 10th in the conference and 87th nationally in yards gained per game (156.7). Vanderbilt running back Ralph Webb leads the Commodores in rushing with 495 yards (4.0 ypc) and three touchdowns. Last week at South Carolina Vanderbilt’s Darrius Sims gained 104 yards on just six carries, averaging over 17 yards a tote. He has 146 yards rushing on the season. Quarterback Johnny McCrary is a rushing threat as well with 166 yards on 45 carries (3.7 ypg). Vandy’s offensive line has shown improvement over the past two games.
The Tiger’s rushing defense is third best in the SEC and 21st nationally allowing just 114 yards per game. Linebacker Kentrell Brothers leads the Tigers in tackles with 66 ½, including 5 ½ tackles for losses. He also has 1 1/2 sacks. The Tigers have an impressive 65 tackles for 244 lost yards this season (9.3 tpg), good for fifth nationally. Last week at Georgia the Tigers limited the Bulldogs to just 120 yards on 45 carries (2.6 ypc).
MISSOURI PASSING OFFENSE VS. VANDERBILT PASSING DEFENSE
Missouri’s passing offense is 11th in the conference and 98th nationally, gaining 187 yards per game on average. Regular starter Maty Mauk remains missing from the depth chart for the fourth straight week due to suspension. In his place the Tigers have used true freshman Drew Lock who has completed 63 of 118 passes for 655 yards and three interceptions on the season. Last week at Georgia Lock struggled completing 11 of 26 passes for 143 yards with no interceptions or TDs. Nate Brown is the Tiger’s top receiver with 20 catches for 251 yards and four TDs. J’Mon Moore has 16 receptions for 205 yards and a pair of TDs.
Vanderbilt’s Black Death defense is in the top ten nationally and leads the SEC in both red zone defense and third down conversion defense. However, in passing yards allowed Vandy is a very average 64th nationally and 10th in the conference (223 ypg). Vanderbilt’s Jahmel McIntosh has two interceptions on the season to lead the Commodores. Vanderbilt has sacked opposing QBs 11 times this season. Adam Butler and Zach Cunningham lead the Commodores with 2 sacks each. Stephen Weatherly has five quarterback hurries. Safety Oren Burks has five pass breakups.
MISSOURI RUSHING OFFENSE VS. VANDERBILT RUSHING DEFENSE
Missouri’s rushing offense is dead last in the SEC and 121st nationally gaining just 103 yards per game. Last week at Georgia the Tigers gained just 21 yards in 22 attempts on the ground. Running back Russell Hansbrough has 44 carries for 190 yards and no touchdowns this season. Hansbrough rushed for 87 yards on 19 carries in last year’s victory over Vandy. Backup Ish Witter has 87 carries for 339 yards and a TD. The Tiger staff has been juggling offensive linemen in order to find the right combination of blockers.
The Commodore rushing defense has been solid this season ranking fifth in the conference and 23rd nationally (115 ypg). Middle linebacker Zach Cunningham has been outstanding this season with 47 tackles including eight for losses. Fellow linebacker Darreon Herring has 32 tackles including 18 solo stops. Last week at USC the Commodores allowed 152 yards on 37 carries rushing (4.1 ypc).
Vanderbilt kicker/punter Tommy Openshaw has made 11 of 16 field goals this season. He’s made 6 of 8 for 40-49 yards with a long of 49 yards. As a punter Openshaw averages 40.8 yards per punt with a long boot of 66 yards. He’s downed 11 of 29 inside of the 20 and had 12 fair catches. Return man Darrius Sims averages 21.3 yards per kickoff return with a long return of 47 yards. Ryan White averages 10.4 yards per punt return with a long return of 36 yards. Vandy has blocked one kick and allowed one kick to be blocked. Vandy’s gave up a punt return for a TD to Georgia earlier in the season but kick/punt coverage units have been solid in recent games.
Tiger punter Corey Fatony averaged 44 yards per punt with a long boot of 61 yards. He’s had 13 of his 45 punts go more than 50 yards. Kicker Andrew Baggett has made a lot of field goal attempts, like Vandy’s Openshaw. Baggett has connected on 10 of 13 attempts with a long boot of 41 yards. John Gibson averages 12.6 yards per punt return with a long of 19 yards. Aarion Penton has nine punt returns for 82 yards. He has a long return of 41 yards and has returned one for a TD. Missouri linebacker Kentrell Brothers has blocked two kicks this season.
Derek Mason is in his second season at Vanderbilt with a 5-13 (.277) (0-11 SEC) 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.
Gary Pinkel (190-106-3) is the second winningest active head coach in the FBS. In all-time FBS win he is currently ranked No. 19. He was the 2014 SEC Coach of the Year, the 2007 Big 12 Coach of the Year, the 2007 Field Turf National Coach of the Year, 19th winningest coach in college football history. He’s taken Missouri to 10 bowl games.
It’s Vanderbilt’s homecoming which could be a source of motivation for both teams. Vanderbilt is last in the SEC in turnover margin (-1.50) while Missouri is seventh (+0.14). Vanderbilt is 45th nationally in offensive third down conversions (.430) while Missouri is 113th (.330). In defensive third down conversions Vandy is eighth nationally (0.262) while the Tigers are 57th (.375).
PREDICTION: Missouri 13, Vanderbilt 9. Coaching is the big difference in this game. Talent is about the same. Gary Pinkel is not just a good coach. He’s a great coach who is a seasoned veteran who knows what he’s doing. Odds are his team will be better prepared and will have a better game plan. Can Vandy win? Yes they can, but Pinkel more than likely tips the scales in Missouri’s favor.