Here’s everything you need to know about today’s SEC showdown between the No. 4 Mississippi State Bulldogs (9-1, 5-1) and the Vanderbilt Commodores (3-7, 0-6).

When: Tonight
Where: Starkville, Miss.
Game Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
Current Line: Mississippi State (-30.5)

Game Buzz: Mississippi State enters Saturday’s showdown one week removed from its first loss of 2014, but it still clings to playoff hopes after earning the No. 4 ranking in the most recent College Football Playoff Top 25. Vanderbilt, on the other hand, enters Week 13 with an 0-6 record in the SEC, dropping all six games by double figures. The Bulldogs will celebrate Senior Night before kickoff in honor of their final home game of the year, and Davis Wade Stadium should be electric for one of just three SEC showdowns on the Week 13 slate.



Players to Watch:

  • QB Dak Prescott
  • RB Josh Robinson
  • WR De’Runnya Wilson
  • WR Jameon Lewis
  • DE Preston Smith
  • LB Benardrick McKinney
  • LB Beniquez Brown
  • CB Taveze Calhoun
  • CB Jamerson Love

Keys for Mississippi State:

  • Get back to running the ball. In last week’s loss to Alabama, Mississippi State left the offense in Prescott’s hands and did very little to support him against a nasty Alabama defense. The Bulldogs’ dual-threat signal caller threw the ball 48 times and ran the ball 22 more times for fewer than four yards per carry, all while star tailback Josh Robinson received just 12 touches on the day. The Bulldogs must feed Robinson the ball early and often in Saturday’s showdown with Vandy to open up the rest of the offense. When Robinson is running well, Prescott’s running lanes are wider and his throws are much simpler. Thus, the Bulldogs must revert back to their bread and butter and run the ball effectively this week.
  • Play smart and play safe. No disrespect to Vanderbilt, but the Commodores have not shown they can play close with an SEC opponent this season, and it’s unlikely they’ll start this week on the road against a top 5 team celebrating its Senior Night. Mississippi State should be able to control this game, but it must remember it has a much bigger game looming next week against Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. Fighting for an extra yard in this game at the expense of a potential injury is simply not worth it. Take the game against Vandy seriously, but don’t press as if it’s a championship game. Play smart and play safe, limiting unforced errors while sticking to the game plan set this week in practice. If the Bulldogs can do that, they’ll be fine.

Glaring Weakness to Watch: Vanderbilt is not known for its explosive passing offense, but it could catch Mississippi State off-guard with a few big plays over the top against MSU’s vulnerable secondary. Even UAB scored three 70-yard touchdowns against the Bulldogs, and if Mississippi State isn’t careful Johnny McCrary and company could score on a few long completions of their own, especially on well-sold play action fakes. The Bulldogs secondary should be able to handle the Vandy passing game, but the secondary remains the most vulnerable part of Mississippi State’s lineup.

Most Interesting Part of the Game: Mississippi State has 19 seniors on this year’s roster, meaning the team should be fired up for its final home game of the year. Will that added energy, especially following a loss, cause MSU to play sloppily on Saturday? Or will it fuel a convincing victory for the Bulldogs?

Team Buzz: Mississippi State is excited to take the field again and finally put last week’s loss behind it, and that excitement should translate into a big day for the Bulldogs against Vanderbilt. Earning the No. 4 spot in this week’s CFP poll reaffirmed the Bulldogs are still very much in the hunt for a playoff berth, and even an SEC West title is still in the picture for MSU. The Bulldogs must win to keep all of those hopes alive, but knowing there is still plenty to play for after last week’s loss should carry Mississippi State to an easy victory on Saturday.


Players to Watch:

  • QB Johnny McCrary
  • RB Ralph Webb
  • LB Caleb Azubike

Keys for Vanderbilt:

  • Let Johnny McCrary do his thing: At times this season, Mississippi State’s pass defense has given up yards in chunks and the Commodores believe they have the right quarterback to now expose the opposition’s weakness. Over his last four games, McCrary’s thrown nine touchdown passes.

Most Interesting Part of the Game: With nothing left to play for this season, Vanderbilt’s viewing this one as its ‘Super Bowl’ according to coach Derek Mason. Mississippi State’s more talented at nearly every position, but the Commodores could hang around if Ralph Webb gets going offensively.