Saturday will be the first time an SEC team will visit Houchens-Smith Stadium to face the Hilltoppers in Western Kentucky. Vanderbilt is trying to shake off a 38-7 blowout loss from a week ago against Georgia Tech and get back to their defensive identity.
It’s going to be a tall task against WKU quarterback Mike White, who ranks 17th in the nation in both yards per game and passer rating. The Hilltoppers beat the Dores last season 14-12 after a failed two-point conversion by Vandy ended the game.
Vanderbilt needs a win before its SEC schedule really sets in, and Western Kentucky is seeking another win under coach Jim Brohm, who is 12-1 all-time at home.
SPREAD: Western Kentucky -8. OVER/UNDER: 51.5
IMPACT PLAYERS: (for more on impact players)
#7 RB Ralph Webb, Jr – 67 att. 377 yds, 2 TDs
#31 CB Tre Herndon, Jr./#5 CB Torren McGaster, Sr. – 21 total tackles between the two
LB/S Oren Burks, R-Jr – 15 total tackles, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble, 1 sack
#14 QB Mike White, R-Jr., – 54/86, 920 yds passing, 5 TDs, 2 INTs
#15 WR Nicholas Norris, Sr./ #2 Taywan Taylor, Sr., – Norris had 11 catches for 187 yards last week vs. Miami (OH) & Taylor ranks 12th in the NCAA in receiving through three weeks
#9 LB T.J. McCollum, R-Jr., – 22 total tackles and preseason All C-USA First Team
Run the ball, control the clock and play good defense…
If only it was that simple. Ralph Webb is the key to Vanderbilt’s success. If he plays well, the Dores are going to have a shot to win the football game.
From that shot to a guarantee relies on the other offensive assets. QB Kyle Shurmur still has yet to put together a complete game where he has thrown for over 250 yards, multiple touchdowns and a win. For Vandy to have success in the long term, that needs to happen. But for Vandy to win this Saturday, Shurmur needs to use the play action to his advantage.
Against WKU, the Dores don’t want to play catch up because the Hilltopper offense is just too good. Controlling the clock means time of possession for the Dores. When I speak of Shurmur throwing for passing yards, those completions should come over long, sustaining drives that end in points.
Defensively, Vanderbilt also has to watch out for trick plays. Crazy as it sounds, WKU loves to run flea-flickers. The Vandy defense can’t get caught out of coverage or it will be six for the Hilltoppers.
Finally, last week Georgia Tech showed some big time holes in Derek Mason’s defense. At least on Saturday he won’t have to worry about the triple option, but he will have to worry about another dynamic spread offense. Keeping WKU’s wide receivers in front of the Vanderbilt secondary so the front seven can make the play will be major part of a Commodore victory.
Get an early lead and never let off the gas…
This offense is no joke and it loves getting chunk yard plays. QB Mike White is tied for fourth in the country in 25-plus yard plays (13) and ranks fifth in yards per attempt (10.7). The Hilltoppers run a wide open offense that does a fantastic job of getting their receivers involved early and often.
WR Nicholas Norris and Taywan Taylor are star athletes within this offense. This duo can stretch the field and break tackles.
Expect WKU to use their running game a little bit more, also. The Hilltopper run game as been abysmal, only averaging 85.3 yards per game. Vandy is going to do everything in it’s power to not give up the big play and get beat down the field. This will open up running lanes to pick up first downs and extend drives.
Another thing that is in WKU’s favor is the fact that they play really well at home. The Hilltoppers are are currently riding an 11-game home winning streak, the fifth-longest active streak in in the nation, and have not lost a home game since Oct. 4, 2014. Expect the Bowling Green crowd to be fully involved.