3. Can Stephen Garcia finally find his mojo on the road?
Other than a handful of out-of-the-ordinary performances (2008 Kentucky, 2009 Georgia, 2010 Auburn first-third quarters), Garcia tends to be a much worse QB on the road than he is at home. That was true again last weekend, when he made some key mistakes and misfires that may have helped cost us the game. An SEC East Championship is likely going to require us to win a road game in Gainesville later this season, so Garcia needs to learn how to keep his cool away from home. Playing against a struggling Vandy team should be a great opportunity for him to do build a little confidence. A turnover-free game where he hits most of his open targets is what we should be looking for.
2. Can we handle Vandy in the return game?
A huge KR from Vandy star Warren Norman was what in large part (although certainly not totally) kept Vandy in last year's game in Columbia. Vandy has a fairly punchless offense yet again this year, but Norman and Zac Stacy remain dangerous in the return games, so it's going to be key to control field position by keeping them from making any big returns. Vandy likely won't score many points if we control the field position battle, which was a big problem in last year's game, when we doubled Vandy in offensive yardage but didn't put up many points because we started so many drives coming out our own red zone.
1. Will We Commit to the Run?
I've already harped on it a bit this week, and it's worth pointing out again, especially because Vandy, like Kentucky, has a terrible run defense that's giving up over 190 yards per game and well over 200 in SEC play. Even if Marcus Lattimore doesn't play, there's no reason we shouldn't be able to run the ball all over Vandy. Kenny Miles will likely start if Lattimore doesn't play, and Miles ran for over 100 last season against the Commodores. Let's give him his chance to earn back some playing time, and let's get Brian Maddox a few yards, as well.
When I think about this team and Spurrier's reluctance to commit to the run, I have to go back to that significant drive at the beginning of the second half against Kentucky. Carolina was on UK's side of the field and had a chance to more or less put the game away. We get a short completion to Alshon to set up second and short, and then we run a reverse for one yard and an incomplete bomb over the middle. At that point, we didn't need to get cute--why not run on the second-and-five play and see if you can get third-and-short? That's what this team's identity has been for most of the year, and that's what it should have been then. We needed to move the ball and end that game with steady drive. Let's hope the coaching staff sees it that way this week. The fact that we need to try to protect the ball in a game where Vandy's best chance to win is to force turnovers is not the least reason for it to do so.