On September 16, Vanderbilt upset the then No.18 ranked Kansas State Wildcats in Nashville to move to 3-0 on the season. The next week, No.1 Alabama went to the Music City and gave the ‘Dores a 59-0 beating. Coach Derek Mason’s team has yet to recover from that hefty defeat, giving up an average of 49.8 points in four straight losses.
Head Coach: Derek Mason. Fourth season (16-28).
Last Week: Bye following 57-35 defeat at Ole Miss.
Offensive playmaker: QB Kyle Shurmur.
Top Defender: LB Charles Wright.
Weakness: Running Game.
Vanderbilt will be looking for their first SEC win after dropping their opening four conference games. It was a tough start to conference play for Mason’s squad, opening with Alabama, at Florida and Georgia. They hung around in the Swamp, even at 17 with the Gators at half. Florida then pulled away late for a 38-24 win. Georgia then gave Vandy their second home-hammering of the season, winning 45-14. That sent Vandy to Ole Miss at 3-3, facing a team in the middle of a 3-game skid of their own. Shea Patterson then lit up the Vandy defense for 351 yards and four TDs through the air in a 57-35 Rebel victory.
Vandy had a much needed bye-week to prep for their trip to Columbia. So far, Mason’s team has struggled on both sides of the ball in the run game. Currently 12th in the SEC in run defense, the ‘Dores have allowed a 100-yard rusher five weeks straight. Alabama ran for a record 496 yards (with five different RBs running at a minimum of 7 yards per carry) and Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel combined for 288 yards and three scores. Ole Miss’ Jordan Wilkins was the latest tailback to join the club with 113 yards. On the offensive side, Vandy ranks last in the SEC in rushing yards. They are currently the only SEC program averaging less than 100 yards a game at 92.5 on the year. Ralph Webb has 408 yards and five scores but is averaging only 3.7 yards per carry while back-up Khari Blasingame is only averaging 3.2 per carry so far on the season.
While the running game has taken a step back, QB Kyle Shurmur has picked up his play so far in 2017. He heads into the contest 7th in the SEC in passing yards. He has also taken care of the ball with only two INTs in the season, only Alabama’s Jalen Hurts and LSU’s Danny Etling have thrown less in the SEC. Shurmur also has 14 touchdowns on the season, trailing only Drew Lock and Shea Patterson in the conference rankings.
The Vanderbilt defense has its weaknesses but junior LB Charles Wright has emerged as a premier pass-rusher in the SEC. Wright has seven sacks in the season, good enough for second in the SEC. He also has another seven tackles for loss. Saftey LaDarius Wiley is Vandy’s leading tackler with 59 on the season, good enough for third in the SEC. Those two will try to right the ship for the Commodore defense in Columbia.