Nik's Commodore Keys: Miami (Ohio)

After a disappointing 5-7 finish last year, Bobby Johnson leads his Vanderbilt Commodores into action against the Miami RedHawks, coached by Shane Montgomery, on a Thursday Night ESPNU game that may set the tone for the rest of the season for both teams. Here are some keys for a Vanderbilt victory:

Strong Secondary

In order for Vanderbilt to defeat the Miami RedHawks, a team that is projected to make a second consecutive berth in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game, Vanderbilt must be strong on defense, but particularly in the secondary. Vanderbilt must start the season out strong, looking to shut down Miami quarterback Daniel Raudabaugh. Raudabaugh threw for 2,431 yards last year…an average of over 200 yards per game. However, Raudabaugh threw as many interceptions as touchdowns last season, 12. Last year, D.J. Moore led the SEC in interceptions with 6. He will need to shake up Raudabaugh in order for the Dores to beat Miami. In addition to strong coverage, Vanderbilt will need to put pressure on Raudabaugh. Ryan Hamilton was very effective on safety blitzes, and is solid in coverage. Vanderbilt's veteran secondary, which includes all-SEC players D.J. Moore and Reshard Langford, will need to control the Miami passing attack for Vanderbilt to win this game.

Quarterback

Vanderbilt needs solid play from whoever the starter is going to be. Chris Nickson had an excellent sophomore season, but not a very good junior season. He is going to need to step up big-time in order for the Dores to win. He must find a new target to replace all-American receiver Earl Bennett (who set the SEC record for career receptions against the RedHawks). Clemson transfer Andrew Diamonde, redshirt freshman Udom Umah, and true freshman speedster John Cole will need to step up to fill that void. With George Smith out, Jamie Graham and D.J. Moore, who will be playing receiver as well as a returner, will have to step up. The offensive line will be key, and it is largely untested. 5 new starters come in, but Head Coach Bobby Johnson doesn't seem too concerned because all starters have plenty of playing experience. Johnson believes that this will be a strong offensive line, with more speed and athleticism, but less strength and size. They will need to play well for the passing and running games to be successful.

Running Game

Everybody knows that you can't win if you can't run, and Vanderbilt must run the ball this year. The ingredients are there, with power back Jeff Jennings, and all-purpose back Jared Hawkins. Gaston Miller, after redshirting as a sophomore last year, will provide a necessary spark, along with potential breakaway speed. These backs will need to step up, and trample through Miami's defense, which might prove to be difficult. Miami returns a very strong linebacking corps, lead by Clayton Mullins, who had 143 tackles last year. All of the Miami linebackers are on the Butkus watch list, which marks a first time in history. Vanderbilt's running backs will need to be better than Miami's linebackers for the Dores to win this game.

Final Words of Wisdom

Plain and simple, the Dores need to bring their A game. This is a tough Miami team, but Vanderbilt should have a talent and speed advantage. Miami won't be intimidated, and Vanderbilt will have to fight for their lives, but they are capable of beating this team, with solid pass defense, solid quarterback play, and a better running game than Commodore fans saw last year. If Vanderbilt can do these things, they are more than capable of defeating Miami in Oxford.

Last Meeting:

Vanderbilt 24 Miami 13 (2006 in Nashville), Vanderbilt leads all-time series 2-1.

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