Expect Another Defensive Battle Saturday

Stop me if you have heard this before, Saturday's game will be a defensive struggle in which taking care of the ball and special teams will probably be the deciding factor. That was the case against Auburn, and it is no different for the Commodores this week when they travel to Starkville to take on the Bulldogs of Mississippi State.

This is a tough game for the Vanderbilt coaching staff. They have to make sure they have their team ready to play coming off the huge win against Auburn last Saturday night, and keep them from looking ahead to the big showdown next Saturday in Athens against the Georgia Bulldogs. Mississippi State only has one win, but if the Dores do not go in there ready to play on Saturday they will lose.

Look for another defensive struggle on Saturday. The Bulldogs struggle on offense, only scoring 16 points per game, but they are very good on defense. The key to winning this game is the same as last week against Auburn, take care of the ball. The Bulldogs are not going to put together a lot of long scoring drives. The only way they are going to put up a lot of points on the board is if Vandy gives them some short field scoring opportunities.

Mississippi State is not going to take a lot of shots down the field, and the secondary is the strength of the Black and Gold defense, so look for Bobby Johnson to stack the box and focus on stopping the run. The Bulldogs' rushing attack averages 113 yards per game and is led by Anthony Dixon. Dixon is a talented back who averages 4.5 yards per carry. Stopping Dixon will really handicap the Bulldogs' offense.

The Vandy defense needs to force a couple of turnovers to give their offense some easy scoring chances against this talented Mississippi State defense. The Dores should be able to find some running room against this defense that is giving up 178.4 yards per game on the ground. Look for the Commodores to throw a heavy dose of Jared Hawkins and Jeff Jennings at the Bulldogs early in the game in an attempt to wear down the defense.

Vanderbilt still has not announced who the starting quarterback will be on Saturday, but the game plan will be the same whether it is Chris Nickson or Mackenzi Adams. Whoever starts will need to take care of the ball. Mississippi State is only giving up 153 yards per game through the air so either quarterback will need to make good decisions and hit receivers when they are open.

This game could be decided by a big play on special teams. That is good news for Vandy because their special teams have been very good this season. They will need another solid effort from punter Brett Upson, who might have been the MVP of the game against Auburn. They will also need D.J. Moore or Jamie Graham to break a big return to spark the offense.

The Dores will be the better team on the field in Starkville. As long as they are focused on this game and execute well they will head to Athens 6-0.


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