Category: Vanderbilt

Week 3: SEC Previews and Predictions

Florida (-5) vs Texas A&M

Headed into this week’s matchup between the Aggies and the Gators, it seems like a tale of two teams headed in very different directions. Florida must remain focused because the Aggies still have a ton of talent. Florida’s offense does look the part, but for all the offensive fireworks, they only outgained Ole Miss and South Carolina 989 to 942 yards.

I said last week, and I still remain skeptical that the Gators offense will continue to operate with this efficiency as the competition gets tougher. Kyle Trask has been great statistically this season, but there are still some areas of concern. PFF notes, “Of his 21 completions, 18 were to a receiver with more than a couple of steps of separation from the defender. On throws to receivers who weren’t charted as “open” by our graders, Trask went 3-of-10 for 66 yards and one interception.” In other words, he still has some cleaning up to do.

That might not be an issue this week if the Aggies defense does not play much better in the secondary than they did last week against Alabama. Florida does not go over the top as much as Mac Jones and the Tide, but they have to do a better job of pressuring the QB.

On offense, the Aggies need to give the Gators an early and often dose of running back duo Isaiah Spiller and Ainias Smith. Coach Jimbo Fisher has only had them carry the ball 34 total times in their first two-game. Despite limited carries, they totaled 222 yards for a 6.5 YPC average. Alabama limited the duo, but the Gators are not Alabama on defense.

Score Prediction Florida 38 Texas A&M 28

 

LSU (-14) vs Missouri

LSU secured a bounce-back win last week against Vanderbilt who looked improved in week one against Texas A&M. Derek Stingley Jr. returned to the lineup after missing the opener against Mississippi State and the results were instant.

The Missouri offense, on the other hand, has looked anemic in the first two weeks as they scored just 31 points in losses to the Crimson Tide and Volunteers. After rotating quarterbacks Shawn Robinson and Connor Bazelak the first two weeks, Coach Eli Drinkwitz has decided to start Bazelak after he went a respectable 13-of-21 for 218 yards against Tennessee.

At this point in the season, no one is going to confuse the 2020 LSU offense for the 2019 version. However, they are averaging 37.5 PPG and startting to find their identity. Quarterback Myles Brennan has thrown over 300 yards in each of his first two starts and the three headed monster at running back is getting healthy.

Missouri is slowly finding some weapons but three straight weeks of top 25 teams is going to take a toll.

Score Prediction: LSU 41 Missouri 17

 

South Carolina (-13) vs Vanderbilt

After a solid performance in week one by the Commodores they got throttled last week against LSU. Their offensive line is just not jelling yet and that is a bad combination when you have the first freshman quarterback to start a season opener in the SEC since 1972.

South Carolina’s offensive line has not been much better to start the season. So when you look at Collin Hill’s stats and see 502 yards and three scores, it is impressive with what he has dealt with. Vanderbilt has not shown the ability to get after the quarterback .

This game will come down to who controls the clock, and South Carolina will make a few big plays when needed.

South Carolina 27 Vanderbilt 13

 

Tennessee vs UGA (-12.5)

Jim Chaney loves balance and the ability to use multiple running backs to carry the load. The Vols are passing for 225.5 YPG and rushing for 182.5 YPG and are 5th in PPG in the SEC at 33.

The offense, however, will have their biggest test of the season with the Georgia Bulldogs defense ready to shine in another prime time game. For Tennessee to be able to win this game, they have to be able to run the football. It won’t be easy as UGA is only giving up 2.32 YPC and hasn’t let a running back rush for a TD in 678 days?

I will be surprised if the Bulldogs have much trouble limiting the Vols running game and while Chaney is the best in the business at hiding his quarterbacks flaws, he will have to let Jarrett Guarantano try to make some plays if the want to win this game.

The big question mark for the DAWGS is can Stetson Bennett keep up the level he has been playing at? For all of the talk of wide receivers not getting seperation for the Bulldogs last season, Bennet has thrown to more open receivers in attempts over 10-plus-yards than any other QB in the SEC.

If Bennett and the offense don’t turn the ball over more than twice, UGA rolls.

UGA 27 Tennessee 14

Arkansas vs Auburn (-14)

This will either be a bounce back win for Auburn or the beginning of the 2021 HC search for the Tigers. The Razorbacks shocked the world by upsetting Mississippi State in week one. However, it is time for people to realize that this Arkansas defense is the most improved unit of this young season.

The question for Auburn is will we get good Bo (Kentucky) or bad Bo (UGA). The Auburn offensive line were manhandled last week and I think Arkansas could find some success against them as well.

The Razorbacks offense has to take a step forward this week if they are going to win this game. Last week against MSU they only gained 1.7 yards per carry. Rakeem Boyd left the game with an ankle injury but has not looked like the running back we expected early in the season. FSam Pittman says he should be ready to go against Auburn but they will need to find more creative ways to get him involved.

I think Auburn gets the win but I don’t think Bo Nix will play well enough to cover the spread.

Auburn 24 Arkansas 17

Alabama (-23) vs Ole Miss

Let me start by saying that Mac Jones and John Metchie III are who I thought they were. My No. 1 breakout pick (Jones) and my No. 6 break out player (Metchie) had another big game last week. Jones has thrown the most catchable ball of anyone this season in college football according to PFF. I would like to see Najee a little more explosive this week as he is averaging 1.3 yards less per carry this season than his career average headed into the year.

As you should know by now, Ole Miss has some true playmakers on their team. Matt Corral has been exceptional the first two weeks of the season and has been lethal when targeting WR Elijah Moore. Jerrion Ealy has also been efficient when called upon.

After this game, we will know if the Alabama defense is as good as they have looked the first two weeks. They will have their work cut out for them but they will make adjustments early.

Alabama 45 Ole Miss 24

Kentucky (-3) vs Mississippi State

I am 10-4 on the season straight-up and 11-3 ATS. However, all four games that I have loss have involved Kentucky and Mississippi State – So take this prediction with a grain of salt.

With as bad as the Kentucky secondary has been and with the Air raid in town, there is plenty of reasons to believe the Wildcats will drop to 0-3.

However, I think their offensive line can help control the clock. The question is can they create turnovers. So far this season, they don’t have one.

To be honest, I am so confused by these two teams right now, I am going to flip a coin.

Kentucky 29 MSU 24

SEC Week 2: Previews and Predictions

South Carolina VS Florida (-16.5)

Kyle Trask was exceptional last week throwing for 416-yards and six-touchdowns. While I am becoming a believer, I am not ready to book his NY ticket just yet. While it is hard to criticize a 30-for-42 effort, but there is still room for improvement when you rewatch the game. Will he be able to be elite if any team can take Kyle Pitts out of the game? I think so but I am not ready to fully commit.

This week will be a slightly tougher challenge for the Gators offense. South Carolina’s defense isn’t elite, but they do have two future NFL cornerbacks in Israel Mukuamu and Jaycee Horn. It sounds like Isreal might be able to play, and Horn didn’t allow a single yard passing against Tennessee.

Florida defense was as horrific as I have seen them in my ten years of covering the SEC. They gave up over 600 yards and 35 points to the Rebels.

Mike Bobo did a respectable job with South Carolina last week and he was creative in finding ways to get the ball as he caught ten passes for 140 yards and a touchdown. Graduate transfer Colin Hill played a pretty good game throwing for a respectable 290 yards. He will need to take another step this week for South Carolina to have a shot.

Score Prediction: Florida 38 South Carolina 20

 

Missouri VS Tennessee (-12)

The Missouri Tigers are heading to Knoxville after a better than expected performance versus Alabama. Yes, they did most of their scoring against the second team, but they fought all night. Probably most impressive for the Tigers was outside linebacker Tre Williams and defensive lineman Kobie Whiteside. Both played solid all night.

They will need some help to stop this Jim Chaney offense. I have often said that Chaney is the best in the business at hiding his quarterbacks’ flaws. Jarrett Guarantano was far from perfect, but he did not make any killer mistakes as he threw for 259-yards, one touchdown, and zero interceptions. Eric Gray struggled running the football against South Carolina, but Ty Chandler covered his clack rushing for 86-yards on 13 carries.

Score Prediction: Tennessee 27 Mizzou 13

 

Texas A&M VS Alabama (-18)

While watching Mac Jones play last week, one song came to mind – I told you so by Randy Travis. Jones did just what I thought he would -dominate the game. Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith were once again spectacular, and John Metchie proved he was ready to be the new No. 3. Najee once again was a bully, and the starters looked the part.

The Aggies, on the other hand, were awful on offense. Kellen Mond was the most disappointing as he looked like he regressed on passes over 10 yards as he completed just three of 11 such attempts. Isaiah Spiller was the one bright spot for the Aggies offense, rushing for 117-yards on only eight carries.

Alabama and Texas A&M both looked good on defense, but both were facing anemic offenses. We should get a better idea of where they both are after this weekend.

Score Prediction: Alabama 35 Texas A&M 13

 

Ole Miss vs Kentucky (-7)

Kentucky was very disappointing last week as the collapsed against Auburn in the second half. Ole Miss, on the other hand, gave up over 600 yards but also put up over 600 yards.

For Kentucky, it was all about mistakes from the QB position. Terry Wilson Jr. got off to a good start but was horrific in the second half. The good news is the offensive line and running backs played pretty well overall. If Wilson can shake off the cobwebs, they should be in good shape.

For Ole Miss, quarterback Matt Corral was excellent completing 22-of-31 passes for 395 yards and three touchdowns, and WR Elijah Moore caught ten passes for a career-high 227 yards.

I hope I do not regret this, but Kentucky should be able to grind the ball and control the clock.

Score Prediction: Kentucky 24 Ole Miss 21

 

Auburn vs UGA (-6.5)

In Auburn’s last five trips to the state of Georgia to play the Bulldogs, they have only averaged 7.6 PPG. Making things more interesting, this will be the best UGA defense they have faced during that time. Bo Nix and company did have moments where they looked the part last week against what should be a very good Kentucky defense.

Nix should have a ton of confidence coming into this game, not only because of how he played against Kentucky but because he will have wide receiver Seth Williams who bullied his way to six passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns. With that said, the Tigers will need to get much better in the rushing game, and Williams will need more help.

We all know how good this UGA secondary should be this season led by Richard LeCounte who has had four interceptions in his last two games. If they can keep Auburn receivers in front of them, it should be a fun game for the defense.

On offense, who knows? Despite the terrible start, I will say the play-calling looked much improved. Once Monken found his groove, he just started dialing them up. Will it be Stetson Bennett or JT Daniels? I think either is good enough to win this game, but they cannot play musical chairs with them. Auburn is not Arkansas, and this could get ugly quick if they come out slow.

Score Prediction: UGA 24 Auburn 17

 

Arkansas Vs Mississippi State (-17)

Arkansas leading Georgia in the first half had more to do with the spotty offensive line and D’Wan Mathis’ play than anything else. Outside of the second drive of the game, the Razorbacks were flat. Obviously, Mississippi State defense is not as talented as UGA’s defense, but they can still play. Rakeem Boyd was a non-factor but should have more success this game.

Also problematic for Arkansas, they will not be facing an inexperienced QB this week. In fact, last week against LSU, Bulldogs QB K.J. Costello was historically good throwing for 623 yards and five touchdowns in that 44-34 win against LSU. Mississippi State’s offense as a whole recorded 15 plays that resulted in at least a 20-yard gain. The closest to them last week was 11.

Score Prediction: MSU 35 Arkansas 20

Vanderbilt VS LSU (-21)

The Coomodores were impressive last week defensively against the Texas A&M Aggies and that was without their leading tackler from last season Dimitri Moore. Yes, Kellen Mond played bad but some of that was because of Vanderbilt. This defense should get better and beter as the season goes on.

LSU is not going to just move the ball up and down the field on this defense early. However, the lack of playmakers on offense for Vanderbilt will be problematic because the dam will eventually break and this offense will get going in the second half.

Score Prediction: LSU 30 Vandy 7

Week 1: Other Score Predictions

Florida (-13.5) vs Ole Miss 

Kyle Trask and the offense should have a huge day. Florida has plenty to replace but it is hard to imagine they will move the ball consistently with Lane Kiffin only having a few weeks.

Score Prediction Florida 38 Ole Miss 17

 

Mississippi State vs LSU (-14.5)

Mike Leach makes his debut against an LSU this week. Will KJ Costello and the Air Raid offense work in the SEC? Absolutely. LSU should be better on defense but the Bulldogs will be able to move the ball against LSU. This game will be much closer than the experts believe. However, in the end, LSU still has championship DNA and will find the stops they need when it matters most.

Score Prediction: LSU 38 MSU 28

 

Texas A&M (-31.5) VS Vanderbilt

Jimbo Fisher and Kellen Mond are looking to finally breakthrough the glass ceiling that has been over the program. Can they live up to the hype? The talent is definitely there but this Vanderbilt defense will be better than expected. They will keep it close in the first half but will pull away in the second.

Score Prediction: Texas A&M 28 Vanderbilt 7

 

Tennessee (-3.5) VS South Carolina

The Vols are looking to continue the momentum of final games of the 2019 season and South Carolina is looking to save Will Muschamp’s job. The addition of Mike Bobo will be huge for the Gamecocks but not enough in this game. Looke for Eric Gray to put this game away in the fourth.

Score Prediction: Tennessee 31 South Carolina 24

 

2020 Vanderbilt Preview and Predictions

2019 Season in Review

Last season was a complete disappointment for the Vanderbilt Commodores when they finished the season 3-9. Vanderbilt was my most overrated team by far in 2019, where I had them winning seven games. What I failed to account for was how much the departure of offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig to Utah would have on the Commodores. Gerry Gdowski, Vanderbilt’s quarterbacks’ coach, was promoted to fill the offensive coordinator vacancy. The hire made sense at the time but ultimately was a disaster.

The Vanderbilt offense only averaged 16.5 points per game, which ranked 125th of 130 in the nation. That was a 12 point drop from the previous season. With head coach Derek Mason’s job on the line, he ended the Gdowski project after one season. In addition to losing Coach Ludwig, they also were out QB Kyle Shurmur from the 2018 team. However, having playmakers Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Kalija Lipscomb, and Jared Pinkney should have been enough to keep this offense from being anemic.

2020 Preview and Predictions

Despite being on the hot seat, Mason upgraded his staff by adding six new assistants, including veteran coordinators in Todd Fitch (offense) and Ted Roof (defense). They were able to get a few practices before COVID-19 shut football down. The problem is that the all-SEC schedule will hurt Vanderbilt as much as any team in the nation.

Offensive Preview

The bad news for Coach Fitch is that his QB’s have attempted just nine passes at the NCAA level and zero at Vanderbilt. The good news is that Vandy has quite a bit of young talent and one of them could become the face of the program.

Transfer QB Jeremy Moussa has the most experience by playing two games as a freshman at Hawaii, where he completed four of his nine passes for 77 yards and one touchdown. Jeremy decided to transfer to San Bernadino Valley College, where he played nine games where he completed 53% of his passes for 3179 yards and 37 TD.

At this point, Jeremy’s greatest competition might be the Texas gunslinger Ken Seals from Weatherford High School. Despite playing at a 6A high school in Texas, Seals threw for 3,060 yards and 33 touchdowns and rushed for nearly 500 rushing yards. I have been a big fan of Seals since his junior season and believe he could be a star in the SEC.

Two other quarterbacks to keep your eye on are Mike Wright and Danny Clark. Although I have not seen as much film on Wright as I have Seals, what I have seen has been impressive. The dual-threat QB was rated as a four-star by Rivals, and the 247 Sports composite ranks him as the #19 dual-threat quarterback in the 2020 class. Wright produced 3,369 yards of total offense (2,653 passing yards and 716 rushing yards) and 50 touchdowns as a senior while leading Woodward Academy to a 13-1 record and Georgia 4A state semifinals. Clark is another JUCO transfer who completed 158-of-306 passes for 2186 yards, with 18 touchdowns while at Copiah-Lincoln CC in Mississippi. His ceiling does not seem as high as Seals and Wrights but the experience could play into his favor.

Regardless of who wins the starting spot, junior wide receiver Cam Johnson will likely be their no. 1 target. Johnson specializes in short screen or hitch routes were the majority of his 30 receptions last season came from. The Commodores might not have a ton of proven playmakers but they do have a good bit of size on the edge with Amir Abdur-Rahman (6’4″), Chris Pierce (6’4″), and James Bostic (6’3″).

The offensive line for 2020 looked very promising heading into 2020. However, when NFL prospect Devin Cochran transferred to GT (and then didn’t enroll), and three opted out due to COVID-19, new Vanderbilt’s offensive line coach Peter Rossomando has some tough decisions ahead of the season. There is still plenty of potential there with Tyler Steen (12 starts), Grant Miller (seven starts), and Dan Dawkins (two starts). They also added Michigan grad transfer Stephen Spanellis, who appeared in 37 games during his time with the Wolverines, and Connor Mignone was a two-time All-Conference selection at Central Connecticut State.

The news at running back is just as murky. Not only did they lose one of their best running backs in school history in Ke’Shawn Vaughn, but there is not a lot of proven production behind him. At this point, it appears that Vanderbilt will use a running back by committee approach led by Keyon Brooks (4.5 YPC) and Jamauri Wakefield (4.4 YPC). For this offense to turn the corner, these two backs will need to play better this season.

Defensive Preview

The bad news is that defensive coordinator Ted Roof also has many question marks on the defensive side of the football. The good news is there a ton of young talented players in place already. The strength of the Commodores will be on the edge with Dayo Odeyingbo and LB Andre Mintze. Odeyingbo will need to be more consistent but finished last season with 45 tackles (30 solo), 12.0 tackles for loss, 1.5 quarterback sacks, two quarterback hurries. His partner in crime, Mintze, started nine games and finished the season with 40 tackles (23 solo), 7.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 quarterback sacks. He also was fifth in the SEC with 18 run stops.

The secondary has some question marks but could develop into a special unit. Jaylen Mahoney was rock solid last season as a freshman. The physical CB from South Carolina only allowed three first downs on his 201
cover snaps. In fact, he ranked sixth in the nation at yard allowed per coverage snap with just 0.54. If CB Allan George can put it all together for the Commodores this season, this defense could take huge strides. At safety, they have Tae Daley and Frank Coppet returning but watch out for four-star prospect Donovan Kaufman who I am projecting to make the SEC All-Freshman team and All-SEC in 2021.

Overall, this unit should improve between returning players and Power 5 transfers Derek Green (Oklahoma) and Malik Langham (Florida).

Special Teams Preview

One of the few bright spots for the Commodores last season was placekicker Ryley Guay who converted 9-of-11 field goals as a senior, including 7 of 9 between 40-49 yards. He will likely be replaced by Javan Rice who has converted the only field-goal attempt (28-yards) and four extra points during his Vanderbilt career. Punter Harrison Smith (43.0) returns and should be one of the top 20 punters in the nation this season. Justice Shelton-Mosley will no longer be returning punts and kicks this season. It is unclear who will replace him but I would love to see Kaufman get a shot at the job.

Final Predictions

Best Case Scenario
(2-8)

Opening up with Texas A&M and LSU will likely mean an 0-2 start to the season. However, the next four games are the Commodores’ best shot of winning a game when they face South Carolina, Missouri, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State.

Worst-Case Scenario
(0-10)

The SEC-only schedule is brutal for the Commodores. I am convinced the defense will be improved this season and the offense will be better schematically but will there be enough weapons? Unless some players show dramatic improvement, it is going to be a long season.

Dr. SEC Prediction
0-10

We all know that coach Mason is fighting for his job. However, I hope the decision-makers will take into account several mitigating factors. There are two things I want to see for coach Mason to keep his job. No. 1, is the defense better. The talent is there and coach Roof should be able to help in that process. No. 2, do they have a clear cut quarterback headed into next season. If I was coach Mason, I would let Moussa start the season. If the team struggles, as they likely will, you promote Seals or Wright. That will give the new QB four of their easier games on their schedule to start their SEC career. At the end of the season, if the defense is better and you have a quarterback of the future, bring him back.