Key No. 1: Stop the option
Georgia Tech runs the spread option to perfection. Last week in a 35-10 win over Mercer the Yellow Jackets piled up 364 rushing yards and 444 yards total offense. Against the option, the Commodores must show discipline and stick to their assignments during plays. Tech will mostly run but defenders must also watch for the pass. If they over-commit to the run they might get burned for a long pass. Interestingly, the Yellow Jacket offense gained only 119 yards in 44 carries in their opening win over Boston College. That stat proves that Tech offense can at least be slowed.
Key No. 2: Continue the momentum
The Commodores pulled off a big win over local rival MTSU last week, 47-24. That was the most points scored against an FBS opponent during Derek Mason's time at Vandy. Mason also gets a feather in his hat for posting two wins over Middle. No VU coach has won two against Middle since the 1950s. One thing Mason and his team haven't done since he's been at Vanderbilt is win back to back games. It's not easy to get to a bowl if you don't ever win back-to-back games. The Dores need to carry that momentum from the Middle Tennessee game to Atlanta with them.
Key No. 3: Winning special teams play
Vanderbilt's Tommy Openshaw missed a difficult but makable field goal in game one that might have cost the 'Dores a win. In game two the team gave up a blocked punt that could have been very costly. However, on the same token, Vanderbilt did some good things in the first two games on special teams. Against Middle, there were several nice returns by Darrius Sims. Freshman Sam Loy has been a pleasant surprise punting and had a 59-yard punt against MTSU last week. Openshaw has connected on 2-of-3 field goals this season, not bad. Vandy just needs a complete special teams effort against Tech. No ugly surprises like blocked punts, shanked punts, or long kick/punt returns by the opponent. Special teams are improved but let's get a complete stellar effort this week.
Vanderbilt trails in the all-time series with Tech, 15-19-3. Vandy won the first meeting in 1892, 20-10, but fell to Tech in the most recent meeting in 2009, 56-31. The Commodores tied the Yellow Jackets 10-10 in 1965 but you have to go all the way back to 1941 to find the last VU win in the series, a 14-7 victory in Nashville, a game which took place less than two months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The 'Dores most lopsided win in the series was a 54-0 win in 1907. Georgia Tech's biggest victory was an 83-0 triumph in Atlanta in 1917, just one year after the Yellow Jacket's famous 222-0 win over Cumberland.