Who has the edge? Missouri vs. Vanderbilt
Though not many will be watching the matchup between the 2-7 Missouri Tigers and 4-5 Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday afternoon, it’s still an important game for both schools.
The Commodores need a big road win to keep their bowl hopes alive and the Tigers need a win to avoid sinking further into their most embarrassing season since 2000.
In what will likely be a low-scoring affair at 2:30 p.m. Central time on the SEC Network, defense will decide the winner.
With that said, here is a position-by-position breakdown of the two struggling squads:
When Missouri has the ball
Drew Lock vs. Vanderbilt pass defense: Sophomore QB Drew Lock is the second-leading passer in the SEC, behind only Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly, who is now done for the season. However, those numbers are incredibly misleading, since most of Lock’s production came against Delaware State and Eastern Michigan.
Vanderbilt, on the other hand, is a legitimate SEC defense. Lock won’t be putting up video game numbers on Saturday afternoon.
If the Commodores can keep Lock under 300 yards, they’ll have a good chance to pull off the big road victory.
Damarea Crockett/Ish Witter vs. Vanderbilt run defense: This matchup will likely decide who wins. Though Crockett, a freshman, has been outstanding, it’s hard to pick against LB Zach Cunningham and the Vanderbilt defense, which held Georgia to 75 yards rushing and limited Florida to 92. Great rushing teams have gotten their, but not average ones.
If Cunningham does what he usually does, there won’t be much running room for Crockett on Saturday.
Mizzou receivers vs. Vanderbilt pass defense: J’Mon Moore, Dimetrios Mason, Chris Black and the other Mizzou receivers have struggled to create separation against physical SEC defenses this season.
Vanderbilt boasts another strong secondary, so the Mizzou receivers will likely continue their inability to make big plays. Vandy has allowed just 9 pass plays longer than 30 yards. Only LSU and South Carolina have allowed fewer.
However, if Moore can break away from the Commodores’ coverage a couple of times on Saturday afternoon, it could completely change the game.
When Vanderbilt has the ball
Kyle Shurmur vs. Missouri pass defense: Shurmur has thrown 236 passes (eighth-most in the SEC) but just five resulted in touchdowns (fewest among full-time SEC starters and even behind some of the newer starters). The Commodores have been stagnant on offense and don’t inspire fear in opposing defenses when RB Ralph Webb isn’t running over people.
The Mizzou defense has been an embarrassment this season, too, but DE Charles Harris recorded two sacks last weekend against South Carolina and CBs Aarion Penton and John Gibson are a dynamic duo.
If the Tigers can force the Commodores into a couple of mistakes through the air, Mizzou will have a chance to win at home.
Ralph Webb vs. Missouri run defense: With 901 yards, Vanderbilt RB Ralph Webb is the third-leading rusher in the SEC this season.
The Mizzou defense is missing run stuffers like LB Michael Scherer and DT Terry Beckner Jr., so there should be plenty of holes for Webb to bowl through. The Tigers “held” South Carolina to 174 rushing yards last week — the Gamecocks’ highest SEC total this season.
The Tigers have looked lost against the run this season, so Webb could run wild in Columbia on Saturday afternoon.
Vandy receivers vs. Missouri pass defense: As mentioned above, John Gibson and Aarion Penton are a solid set of corners. S Cam Hilton had a good game against South Carolina as well, so the Tigers are no slouch in the secondary.
Meanwhile, Vandy receivers Trent Sherfield, C.J. Duncan and Caleb Scott have yet to find the end zone this season.
If the corners can keep Shurmur from finding open receivers, it’ll be a long day for the Commodores’ offense.
Mizzou’s special teams units (other than P Corey Fatony) have actively hurt the team this season.
The Tigers simply get nothing from the return game and have an unreliable kicker in Tucker McCann.
Meanwhile, Vandy junior K Tommy Openshaw has been reliable, hitting 11 of his 14 attempts in 2016. If the game comes down to a field goal, the Commodores certainly have the edge.