NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt’s month of October ends early at 3 p.m. Saturday when the Commodores make a trip to Missouri.
Vandy (3-4, 0-3 SEC) is looking to snap a three-game losing skid and to finish the month off on a positive note heading into an off week after the trip to Columbia, Missouri. A 21-14 victory over the Tigers on Oct. 19, 2019, was the last time the Commodores beat an SEC or Power 5 conference opponent.
Missouri (2-4, 0-3 SEC) will be hoping to stop a three-game losing streak of its own. The Tigers have consecutive defeats to Auburn, Georgia and Florida, respectively, by a combined 14 points.
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 Tigers:
When: 3 p.m. Saturday
Location: Memorial Stadium (62,621)
Television: SEC Network
Dave Neal (play-by-play), Deuce McAllister (analyst) and Andraya Carter (sideline)
Available via WatchESPN
Vanderbilt Sports Network from Learfield
On-Air Time: 2 p.m. CT
Affiliates: Nashville WQZQ 93.3 FM; Chattanooga WALV 95.3 FM; Lewisburg WJJM 1490 AM, 94.3 FM; Memphis WMPS 1210 AM, 103.1 FM
Satellite: SiriusXM 204; SiriusXM online 967
Vanderbilt Athletics App (Free)
83 degrees at kickoff, zero percent chance of rain
1. Fast Out of the Gates
In the past three outings, Vanderbilt has faced a team ranked inside of The Associated Press top 10. That has garnered plenty of local, regional and national attention and some big opportunities for the Commodores to see where they match up.
Those three contests have also been played in front on an average of 73,519 fans.
So while it may be odd to even consider a let-down game for a team winless in league play, Vanderbilt must guard against playing a road contest with considerably less hype than the previous three previous SEC matchups on its schedule. The Dores must figure out a way to generate some early energy while also getting off to a fast start.
Falling behind early on the scoreboard will not bode well for Vandy on Saturday.
2. Secondary Step Up
Vanderbilt has allowed 333 passing yards per game to this point, the second-worst average in all of the Football Bowl Subdivision. Some of that is due to facing the high-powered offenses of Wake Forest, Alabama, Ole Miss and Georgia, but Vandy certainly hasn’t put together its best game in covering the pass to this point.
The Commodores may get a reprieve against Missouri. The Tigers are throwing for only 207.7 yards per contest and quarterback Brady Cook has more interceptions (6) than touchdown passes (5).
So if ever there were a time for the Dores on the back end to step up, Saturday is it.
3. Don’t Let ‘Em off the Hook
When football coaches speak of discipline, they are typically referring to penalties and turnovers. And Missouri has not excelled in limiting either in 2022—the Tigers average nearly eight flags per contest and have turned the ball over 12 times.
Vanderbilt must take advantage of those type of Missouri miscues Saturday. If the Vandy defense can force a turnover or if the Tigers beat themselves with infractions, the Commodores have to make their SEC rivals pay.
4. Third Down (Again)
One particular area holding Vanderbilt back, both offensively and defensively, is third down.
The Commodores are struggling on the crucial play, ranking 102nd on offensive third down conversion and 115th on third down defense. The Vandy offense has failed to reach the 50 percent threshold in that area in all but one game in 2022 while the defense has allowed the opposition to go 23-for-36 (63.8 percent) the last three times out.
These numbers do not bode well for the Vanderbilt offense facing a Missouri defense that has stopped the opponent more than 72 percent of the time on third down this season.
Should Vanderbilt have any hopes of leaving Memorial Stadium on Saturday victorious it must own third down on both sides of the ball.
5. Get the Run Game Going
Missouri boasts the 23rd-best passing defense in the country by having allowed 191.5 yards per game. Four of the Tigers’ top five tacklers reside in the secondary and four different defensive backs have at least one interception this season.
Missouri’s passing efficiency defense (115.2) also ranks inside the top 20 nationally.
Louisiana Tech (336) and Georgia (312) are the only two opponents to throw for more than 200 yards against the Missouri defense this season.
So it may behoove Vanderbilt to rediscover its rushing attack, an attack that hasn’t done much attacking at all by totaling just 181 yards total in the last three games combined. While Vandy only had two running backs available last week at Georgia, and will likely only have three in uniform this weekend, offensive coordinator Joey Lynch and the offensive staff need to figure out a way to ignite the ground game Saturday to avoid passing downs against a stout Missouri secondary.
(6.) We Invented Homecoming!
OK, not really, but the University of Missouri does have a pretty good argument when it comes to the origins of what modern-day college football fans considering homecoming.
Missouri played rival Kansas in 1911 in Columbia, Missouri, and then-coach Chester Brewer invited alumni to return to town and to the Missouri campus to watch the game and take part in a weekend full of festivities such as a bonfire, a pep rally and a parade. By most all accounts, this appears to be the first time a college football team featured a game against another collegiate program as part of a weekend celebration of its university.
Whether Missouri is the rightful parents of homecoming or not is a continued debate. But the Tigers and their fans have celebrated ever since in helping expand the legend of what is now part urban myth/part historical record of their institution’s significant contribution to college football history.
And oh by the way, it’s homecoming this weekend at Mizzou.
— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.