NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt takes its first road trip of the 2021 season when it heads to Colorado this weekend to face Colorado State at 9 p.m. CT Saturday in Fort Collins, Colorado. The game is scheduled to be televised live by CBS Sports Network.
Vandy has never faced Colorado State before and has only been to the state of Colorado once for a 1979 affair at the Air Force Academy. It’s also the program’s furthest trip west since that game.
The Commodores (0-1) are coming off a disappointing 23-3 loss at home to East Tennessee State to start the Clark Lea Era. Vanderbilt had three second-half turnovers and allowed 23 unanswered points in that defeat.
Colorado State (0-1) began its season with a 42-23 loss to visiting South Dakota State.
Here is more on how to watch, listen to and follow Saturday’s contest as well as five key matchups to consider when the Commodores face the Rams:
When: 9 p.m. CT Saturday
Location: Canvas Stadium
Television: CBS Sports Network
Rich Waltz (play-by-play), Aaron Taylor (analyst), Jenny Dell (sideline)
Vanderbilt Sports Network from Learfield
On-Air Time: 9 p.m. CT
Pregame Show: 7:30 p.m. CT
Affiliates: Nashville WQZQ 830 AM, 93.3 FM; Chattanooga WALV 105.1 FM; Lewisburg WJJM 1490 AM, 94.3 FM; Memphis WMPS 1210 AM, 103.1 FM
Satellite: SiriusXM 191 and 392; SiriusXM online 962 and 970
81 degrees at kickoff, zero percent chance of rain
1. Travel Well
It has become common phrase in the modern vernacular of college football coaches: Travel well.
What it means is certainly open to interpretation, but, essentially, programs that run a tight ship and turn road games into business trips often find success. That will be one of the challenges for the Commodores as they board an airplane together for the first time this fall.
Saturday’s contest marks the first away game for head coach Clark Lea and of the young campaign. It’s also a trip into the Rocky Mountains where Vandy hasn’t been since 1979 and where the elevation is more than 5,000 feet.
Canvas Stadium hols 41,000 fans and although Saturday’s contest isn’t expected to a sellout, the Dores will still be playing in hostile territory. How they handle that, the altitude and the experience will dictate much of Saturday’s result.
2. Squash the Turnover Bug
For a team still growing and learning how to win, possession of the football is imperative.
Perhaps a more veteran squad, one used to overcoming adversity and being on the positive side of the scoreboard could recover from a turnover or two. These Commodores can not do that (yet).
In the loss to East Tennessee State, Vandy gave it away three times – twice via interception and once more on a fumble. Only six teams in all of college football had more than three turnovers in their respective opening game.
Vanderbilt, who has now committed a turnover four games in a row, has to take care of the football Saturday, especially in a hostile environment, if it hopes to give itself any chance at a victory.
3. Run. The. Ball.
Vanderbilt did not do an admirable job in the run game Saturday against East Tennessee State.
Newcomer Re’Mahn Davis was held to 54 yards and Vanderbilt as a team managed just 82. The Dores as a team averaged less than three yards per carry.
But there could be hope in Colorado State’s rush defense. The Rams allowed South Dakota State to pile up 240 yards on the ground at an alarming 7.1 yards per attempt.
Vanderbilt quarterback coach Joey Lynch said this week that he hoped for the Vandy offense to have a more balanced attack. That balance must include some positive headway via the run game whether via the legs of Davis, Rocko Griffin or Patrick Smith.
4. Where’s Trey?
Trey McBride, one of the top tight ends in all of college football, hauled in 13 receptions for 116 yards in Colorado State’s opener. The senior picked up right where he left in 2020 after having made 22 catches for 330 yards in the Rams’ four-game season – he also accounted for all four of Colorado State’s receiving touchdowns.
The 6-foot-4, 260-pound McBride is a sure-fire future NFL Draft selection so the Vandebrilt defense better have their eyes on No. 85 at all times Saturday.
5. Quarterback Play
Whomever takes the majority of the snaps at Canvas Stadium against the Rams will have to turn the corner in his respective career – neither Wright nor Seals has been able to lead the Commodores to victory thus far.
Colorado State showed a few days holes in its pass defense in Week 1 by allowing 224 yards and eight yards per pass attempt. With Vandy’s depth at wide receiver, Seals and/or Wright should have no excuses when it comes to finding open targets Saturday night.
(6.) Ag Day!
Saturday’s contest at Colorado State has been deemed Ag Day and the Rams will wear special uniforms for the occasion.
According to the Colorado State website, Ag Day is a long-standing tradition and celebration of Colorado agriculture and CSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences. Starting in 1981, Ag Day is hosted by CSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences along with Colorado agricultural organizations and associations.
The pregame event features the state’s agricultural growers and producers preparing Colorado’s premier outdoor barbecue from quality Colorado food products to fund scholarships for agricultural sciences students. This tradition honors both the institution’s roots and Colorado’s rich agricultural history in a celebration that appeals to all ages.
— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.