Vanderbilt (3-4) vs. Houston (7-0) 7:00 pm
Vanderbilt has won 3 of the team’s last five games after starting out 0-2 on the season. The Commodores have faced Georgia, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Missouri this season. Houston has not beaten a team with a winning record this season. Houston’s seven victories have come against opponents with a combined record of 13-37.
The Commodores are averaging 18 points per game and are rushing for 158 yards per game along with 227 passing yards through the air this season. Quarterback Johnny McCary has completed 57.9% of his passes for 1,475 yards with 6 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Running back Ralph Webb leads the team with 594 yards averaging 3.9 yards per carry with 4 touchdowns. The key for the Commodores in this contest will be the running game and whether or not Vanderbilt can rush the football to keep the Cougars lethal offense off of the field. Vanderbilt has played physical defensive lines all year and has been getting better as the season has progressed. Look for the Commodores to utilize a ball control attack which could open up the play action passing game for wide receiver Trent Sherfield. Sherfield has great hands and leads the team with 41 receptions for 518 yards with 2 touchdowns. This contest is a contrast in styles and Vanderbilt has shown in the road loss to Ole Miss in Oxford, MS to be able to establish the run on the road. Vanderbilt cannot afford to get into a shootout in this game and will need to score first early on to force the tempo against the Cougars.
Defensively, Vanderbilt is allowing 16.3 points per game and is very good at shutting down the run. The Commodores are allowing 109 rushing yards per game and are yielding 206 passing yards through the air. This unit will need to contain Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. and cannot over-pursue on Saturday night. Ward Jr. is a mobile quarterback who can improvise and make plays outside the pocket. Look for Vanderbilt to blitz early and often in this game to disrupt the timing of the Cougars offensive line. Through the first seven games, the Commodores have recorded 15 sacks with defensive lineman Adam Butler leading the team with 3 sacks on the year. It will be critical for Vanderbilt to create turnovers to give their offensive field position. On the season, Vanderbilt is -9 in turnover margin and has a -2 margin on the road or on a neutral field site.
The Cougars have averaged 47.6 points per game and have a balanced attack that is rushing for 291 yards yards per game along with 269 passing yards per game. Quarterback Greg Ward Jr. is one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the country ad is completing 71.5% of his passes for 1,734 yards with 10 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Ward Jr. is a great runner that has the vision to find seams in opposing defenses. He is not afraid to tuck the ball and run which can be deadly to teams playing man to man coverage. On the year, he is leading the team with 677 rushing yards per game with 15 scores on the ground this year. Running back Kenneth Farrow is a tough, bruising inside runner that has rushed for 669 yards along with 8 touchdowns. Houston will look to start fast and wear down the Commodores defense with their up-tempo attack. Wide receiver Demarcus Ayers is a speedy player that can take the top off of the defense. Ayers leads the team with 51 receptions for 654 yards with 4 touchdowns and is Ward’s main big play target in the Cougars passing attack. Houston will continue to press Vanderbilt offensively by running sideline to sideline and taking chances down the seams of the Vanderbilt secondary.
Houston has a very underrated defense that is very good at shutting down the run allowing 98 rushing yards per game. The Cougars are allowing 19.7 points per game and has the best turnover margin in the country with a +13 margin. The Cougars are very good at generating a pass rush and have 22 sacks on the season. Houston will look to put eight defenders in the box against Vanderbilt and force the Commodores to throw over the top of their secondary. Houston has an experienced group of defensive backs and is allowing 263 passing yards per game. Linebackers Steven Taylor who leads the team with 8 sacks and Elandon Roberts (team leading 76 total tackles) will be the key to stuffing the running lanes of Vanderbilt and force the Commodores to pass the football. Houston will look to put Vanderbilt into third down and long situations to force them out of their offensive game plan.
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Joseph Lisi a former ABC Sports college football researcher, is the owner of www.GOFORTHE2.COM. He is a member if the FWAA (Football Writers Association Of America),Maxwell Football Club and is currently the content editor atwww.2FiveSports.com.He contributes regularly to www.Sid-Rosenberg.com and has been a featured guest every Tuesday night from 10:30-11:30pm EST on Yahoo Sports Radio With Ken Thomson(www.sportsxradio.com).
Joe has been featured on the FNTSY Sports Network and The Sid Rosenberg Sports Radio Show 640AM Sports (South Florida). You can follow him on Twitter: @Goforthe2.
Joe has a weekly radio show on www.blogtalkradio.com with former Georgia Bulldogs WR Corey Allen called: