I’m going to work very hard to not discount this week’s opponent. There is very little hyperbole in declaring Vanderbilt one of the worst teams in the Power 5 conferences, and if Vanderbilt actually gives a shirt about football, they’ll quietly thank Derek Mason for his service and move on to the coaching carousel in the offseason. We start, then, by looking at the 76th best offense in the nation that does one thing really well and...um...can also do other stuff but, not, like, ya know...good, or whatever.
Riley Neal - R-SR: 103-174 (59.2%)/1,102 yards/4 TDs/3 INTs/5.5 ypa
Deuce Wallace - JR: 25-59 (42.4%)/187 yards/0 TDs/1 INT/2.9 ypa
The stat: Passing Down Success Rate
Playing quarterback at any level is incredibly difficult. I could never do it and, therefore, I respect anyone who can do the work to have success at the position at any level.
With that being said... the Vanderbilt quarterbacks are stinky bad. They are 124th in SP+ when passing, 124th in passing success rate, 112th in completion rate, 114th in yards per attempt, 123rd in passing downs, and DEAD LAST (130th) in passing downs success rate. Poor Riley Neal left Ball State as a solid quarterback and has been thrust into an offense that has no ability to sustain a successful passing attack. If you throw the Commodores off schedule, there’s just no way they can reliably get back on track through the air. We’ve seen how excellent the Missouri secondary is and how they can be beaten if they crowd the box. Well, there should be a lot of playing the run this week, so maybe Vandy finds some success with our safeties out of position? Their success rate in passing downs will give us a good idea of just how successful they are overall.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn - SR: 102 rushes/607 yards/6.0 ypc/5 TDs/48% success/47.1% OPP/7.36 HLT
Keyon Brooks - FR: 15 rushes/85 yards/.7 ypc/1 TD/20% success/33.3% OPP/13.04 HLT
The stat: Highlight Yards Per Opportunity
This is it: Ke’Shawn Vaughn is the one good thing the Commodore offense has going for it. Riley Neal is second on the team in rushing attempts, and all other running backs on the roster have attempted 20 runs combined so Vaughn is tasked with, literally, carrying the entire offense. He’s getting the necessary yardage 48% of the time (that’s good), and if he gets 5 yards worth of space, he averages 7.36 yards past that. If you’ve read these columns previously, you already know the Missouri defense’s relationship with big plays; if they can bottle up Vaughn and limit the big plays on the ground then the Tigers will be in solid position to put the game away quickly.
Kalija Lipscomb - SR: 50 targets/30 catches (60%)/337 yards/2 TDs/11.2 ypc/6.7 ypt
Jackson Winrow - R-JR: 4 targets/2 catches (50%)/13 yards/0 TDs/6.5 ypc/3.3 ypt
Cam Johnson - SO: 27 targets/18 catches (66.7%)/184 yards/1 TD/10.2 ypc/6.8 ypt
C.J. Bolar - SO: 16 targets/8 catches (50%)/63 yards/0 TDs/7.9 ypc/3.9 ypt
Chris Pierce - JR: 20 targets/9 catches (45%)/178 yards/1 TD/19.8 ypc/8.9 ypt
Justice Shelton-Mosley - R-SR: 16 targets/11 catches (68.8%)/73 yards/6.6 ypc/4.6 ypt
Jared Pinkney - R-SR: 27 targets/13 catches (48.1%)/143 yards/0 TDs/11.0 ypc/5.3 ypt
Ben Bresnahan - FR: 8 targets/4 catches (50%)/47 yards/0 TDs/11.8 ypc/5.9 ypt
The stat: Average Yards Gained on First Down
If you can force Vanderbilt to pass or keep the yards-to-go greater than 4 they are, essentially, screwed. That all starts on 1st down and 2nd down, where Vanderbilt ranks 48th in the nation in generating first downs in the first two downs of a drive 71% of the time. They’ll run Vaughn over and over and mix in a few sideline passes or screens to the receivers to slowly matriculate down the field and hope that Vaughn eventually busts a big time run somewhere in the drive. If the Tigers can keep the average yards gained on first down to less than 4, they’ll be in a good position to force the Commodores to throw, and as I’ve outlined above, they’re just terrible at that. I mean.... none of their receivers has a success rate over 44%! None of them! That just makes me sad.
Devin Cochran - R-JR
Jonathan Stewart - R-SO
Saige Young - SR
Dan Dawkins - SO
Sean McMoore - R-JR
Grant Miller - R-SO
Cole Clemens - JR
Rowan Godwin - SR
Tyler Steen - SO
Bryce Bailey - R-SO
The stat: Opportunity Rate
Vaughn is the one weapon Vandy relies on and the offensive line does a good job of opening up at least four yards for Vaughn to run through. If the Tigers front seven is cutting those lanes off or, even better, getting penetration at the line of scrimmage, then it’ll (conceivably) force the Commodores to the air more often to open up the ground game back up. The Vandy offensive line is 114th in stuff rate, 115th in power success rate, and 128th against blitzes so the chance for the Missouri defense to make big plays in the back field is there for the taking.