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Head to Head: Vanderbilt vs. Texas A&M

Vanderbilt meets Texas A&M on Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium. 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. TEXAS A&M PASSING DEFENSE

EDGE: TEXAS A&M

Vanderbilt is 105th nationally and 11th in the SEC in passing offense (183.0 ypg).   For the second time this season, Vanderbilt will start true freshman Kyle Shurmur at quarterback.   In three games of action, Shurmur has completed 26 of 57 passes for 275 yards, one interception and two touchdowns.  Last week against Kentucky Shurmur completed 13 of 26 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns.  Backing up Shurmur will be Johnny McCrary who has completed 144 of 263 yards for 1,529 yards, 6 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.    Trent Sherfield leads the Commodores in receptions with 44 for 569 yards.   Ralph Webb (24 rec.), Steven Scheu (22 rec.), and Caleb Scott (22 rec.) are the other top receivers for Vandy.    Commodore blockers have allowed 20 sacks this season.

Texas A&M is 15th nationally and third in the SEC in passing defense (182.9 ypg).  Aggie defenders have intercepted nine passes so far this season.  Cornerback Donovan Wilson leads the A&M with five picks.   The Aggie defense has 28 sacks this season.   Defensive end Myles Garrett runs a 4.4 forty and terrorizes opponents.  He leads the Aggies in sacks with 10 ½.

VANDERBILT RUSHING OFFENSE VS. TEXAS A&M RUSHING DEFENSE

EDGE: VANDERBILT

Vanderbilt is 91st nationally and 10th in the SEC in rushing offense (152.9 ypg).   Running back Ralph Webb needs only 76 more yards to reach 1,000 yards rushing.  Webb has rushed for 924 yards in 231 carries (4.0 ypc) and four touchdowns.  Darrius Sims has 36 carries for 21 yards (6.0 ypc).   Dallas Rivers has 53 carries for 132 yards.   Last week against Kentucky Vandy gained 135 yards on 42 carries (3.2 ypc). 

The Aggies are 113th nationally and 14th in the SEC in rushing defense (210.2 ypg).  In their last game against Western Carolina A&M allowed 137 yards on 27 carries (5.1 ypc).  Against Auburn two weeks ago the Aggies allowed 311 yards on 52 carries (6.0 ypc).   Free safety Armani Watts leads the Aggies in tackles with 97, including 4 ½ for losses.   Defensive end Myles Garrett has 17 tackles for losses. 

TEXAS A&M PASSING OFFENSE VS. VANDERBILT PASSING DEFENSE

EDGE: EVEN

The Aggies are 40th nationally and fourth in the SEC in passing offense (251.9 ypg).  Quarterback Kyler Murray has completed 72 of 121 passes for 686 yards and five touchdowns.  However, Murray is going through the concussion protocol and is questionable for Vanderbilt.  If he can’t go the Aggies will likely go with Kyle Allen who started several games this season. He has completed 127 passes in 219 attempts for 1,713 yards, six interceptions and 15 touchdowns.  Wide receiver Christian Kirk is the Aggies top receiver with 63 catches for 828 yards and six touchdowns.  Ricky Seals-Jones (37 catches, 2TDs) and Josh Reynolds (32 catches, 4TDs), are also key receivers.    

The Commodores are 31st nationally and sixth in the SEC in passing defense (196 ypg).    Last week against Kentucky Vandy limited the Wildcats to just 15 of 34 completions for 127 yards and one touchdown.  Vanderbilt safety Oren Burks intercepted two Kentucky passes, one thwarted at UK scoring threat deep in the red zone and the other Burks returned 30 yards for a touchdown. 

TEXAS A&M RUSHING OFFENSE VS. VANDERBILT RUSHING DEFENSE

EDGE: EVEN

Texas A&M is 54th nationally and seventh in the conference in rushing offense (182.1 ypg).   Running back Tra Carson leads the Aggies in rushing with 864 yards on 181 carries (4.8 ypc) for six touchdowns.  Quarterback Kyler Murray is the second leading rusher with 335 yards on 53 attempts.   Last week against Western Carolina the Aggies gained 304 yards on 52 carries (5.8 ypc).  However, against Ole Miss (27-58 yds), Alabama (25-32 yds) and Arkansas (20-65 yds), the Aggies had some problems with their running game.

Vanderbilt is 21st nationally and fifth in the SEC in rushing defense (123.7 ypg).  Last week against Kentucky the Commodores allowed Kentucky 225 rushing yards (6.1 ypc).   It was the second highest number of yards yielded by the ‘Dores in a game this season.  By contrast, two weeks ago the Commodores held Florida to 93 yards rushing.  Middle linebacker Zach Cunningham leads the Commodores in tackles with 79, including 13 ½ stops for losses.  Ball hawk linebacker Darrion Herring has 52.

SPECIAL TEAMS

EDGE: TEXAS A&M

Vanderbilt’s Tommy Openshaw is 12 for 19 on field goals this season with a long of 49 yards.  However, in the game with Kentucky Openshaw did not attempt a field goal and Hayden Lekacz was utilized for kicking extra points.   Openshaw has 63 punts for a 40.2 yards per punt average.  His longest punt spanned 78 yards.   Ryan White has returned 17 punts for a 7.6 yard average and a long of 36 yards.   He and Darrius Sims both had muffs during the Kentucky game.   Sims has returned 23 kickoffs for a 19.4 yard average.  He has a long return of 47 yards.  Last year against South Carolina he returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.    Vanderbilt has had a punt blocked while Commodore special teams have blocked a field goal and punt this season.  Vanderbilt is 39th nationally in kickoff return defense and 116th in punt return defense.

Taylor Bertolet has connected on 16-of-22 field goals this season for the Aggies.  Drew Kaser averages 47.6 yards per punt. He has a long boot of 71 yards.   He’s made five from 50 yards or more.   Texas A&M, because of return man Christian Kirk, is No. 1 nationally in punt returns (20.0 ypr) with two TDs.  Kirk also returns kickoffs for a 20.1 yard average.  The Aggies have blocked one kick and one punt this season.   A&M is 11th nationally in kickoff return defense and 84th in punt return defense. 

COACHING

EDGE: TEXAS A&M

Derek Mason is in his second season at Vanderbilt with a 7-15 (.318) with a 2-12 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.

Kevin Sumlin is in his fourth season at Texas A&M.  Previously the head coach at Houston, Sumlin has a 70-31 career record and a 35-14 record at A&M.  Sumlin has previous assistant coaching stints at Oklahoma, Washington State, Purdue and Wyoming.  In 2012 he was named the SEC Coach of the Year by the Associated Press and the SEC Co-Coach of the Year by the league head coaches.

INTANGIBLES

EDGE: VANDERBILT

Vanderbilt should be primed for their senior day.  Under Kevin Sumlin the Aggies are 11-5 in true road games. The Aggies are 23rd nationally and 2nd in the SEC in third down conversions (0.456) while Vandy is 74th nationally and ninth in the SEC.   The Aggies are 34th nationally 7th SEC in third down conversion defense (0.342) while the Dores are fourth nationally and first in the SEC (.250).   A&M is 90th nationally (9th SEC) in red zone offense (0.800) while Vandy is 127th nationally and last in the SEC (0.607).   A&M is 58th nationally (11th in the SEC) in red zone defense (0.825) while VU is fourth nationally and first in the SEC (0.607).

PREDICTION: Vanderbilt 20, Texas A&M 17.   Commodores keep their bowl hopes alive with a shocking win over the Aggies. 


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