Head-to-head: Vanderbilt vs. Northwestern

Vanderbilt opens their 2010 season on Saturday night against Northwestern. VandyMania.com compares different critical team areas of Vanderbilt and Northwestern and indicates which team has the edge. We also predict the game's final score.

VANDERBILT
EDGE
AREA
Northwestern
EDGE
COMMENTS
EVEN  
Vanderbilt rushing offense
vs.
Northwestern rushing defense
EVEN  
EVEN. Northwestern has good linebackers including Quentin Davie who has 172 career tackles. Fellow 'backer Nate Williams has 158. Vanderbilt has three solid running backs in Warren Norman, Zac Stacy and Wesley Tate but they've all been injured recently and although they might all three play, we don't know how affective they'll be on Saturday.  
EVEN  
Vanderbilt passing offense
vs.
Northwestern passing defense
EVEN  
EVEN. The Commodores were one of the worst in the nation passing last season. Larry Smith returns after completing just 46 percent of his passes last season along with top wide receiver, John Cole. Defensive end Vince Browne has 9 career sacks for Northwestern. The Wildcats have lost 3-of-4 of their defensive backs from last year (2 graduation, 1 injured).  
 
Northwestern rushing offense
vs.
Vanderbilt rushing defense
 
Vanderbilt returns the SEC's leading tackler in linebacker Chris Marve. John Stokes started during Vanderbilt's 2008 bowl season. Vandy lost defensive ends Steven Stone and Broderick Stewart but Theron Kadri, Tim Fugger and Terriall Brannon all have significant experience. Who will be Northwestern's starting running back isn't clear. Stephen Simmons has 408 career rushing yards. On the offensive line, center Ben Burkett and offensive tackle Al Netter have a combined 52 starts.  
EVEN  
Northwestern passing offense
vs.
Vanderbilt passing defense
EVEN  
Northestern has a high powered spread passing attack but the Wildcats lost highly touted quarterback, Mike Kafka. Junior Dan Persa is taking over but attempted just 34 passes last season. The Cats also lost their top two receivers. Despite these facts, look for the Northwestern passing attack to again put up big numbers. Vanderbilt has a formidable passing defense with safety Sean Richardson and Casey Hayward who along with the rest of the Commodore secondary should be able to at least slow the Wildcat attack down and get a pick or two.  
EVEN
Special Teams
EVEN  
EVEN. Northwestern senior Stefan Demos made 18-25 field goals last season with a long of 49 yards. Vandy kicker Ryan Fowler made 16-of-21 field goals last year and had a long of 47 yards. Both teams have new punters. The Commodores return All-SEC kick returner Warren Norman who returned three kickoffs for touchdowns last year but he has been slowed with an injury.  
 
Coaching
 
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald is 27-23 in his fifth year. Fitzgerald led the Cats to a bowl bid against Auburn in 2009. Robbie Caldwell has over 30 years experience as an assistant coach.  
 
Intangibles
 
It's going to be one of the rare games in which Vanderbilt actually has a homefield advantage, crowd wise. Vanderbilt players have heard for weeks that they will lose to the Cats and they will be fired up to prove the pundits wrong and get their new head coach off to a winning start.  

PREDICTION: Vandy wins! 20-17.

See what Vanderbilt fans are saying about this upcoming game in the VandyMania.com football FORUM.

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