Legendary coach Bill Snyder and Kansas State travel to the Music City to take on Vanderbilt this Saturday. Game time from Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville is set for 7:30 EST, and will be televised on ESPNU.
Vanderbilt comes into this contest looking like the best team head coach Derek Mason has had in his time there. Although beating Middle Tennessee and Alabama A&M isn’t all that impressive, how they won those games is.
The defense, Mason’s specialty, has seen improvements all around. The offense is also making strides, especially with junior QB Kyle Shurmur (76.1% completion rate).
On the other sideline is an even better quarterback named Jesse Ertz, who’s dangerous with his arm and legs. He’s already racked up 622 total yards after two games, and leads a team that’s one of the more complete squads in the Big 12.
Unlike their fellow Big 12 brethren, the Wildcats are at least capable of plugging running gaps and giving their offense a chance by causing turnovers.
They’re currently 4.5-point favorites in a game where the over/under is set at 50 points.
How good is the Commodores defense? It will play a huge factor into Saturday’s contest, since Vanderbilt would rather this game be a low-scoring affair. Though it may not be the best measuring stick, they did easily dispatch of Middle Tennessee 28-6, only giving up 215 total yards. The Blue Raiders then promptly beat Syracuse—a sub-par, but rising school—on the road.
It’s not much to be looked into, but the fact they’ve given up six points in two games after losing their leader, all-SEC LB Zach Cunningham, is big.
Kansas State does have a ground game that churns, between Ertz, Alex Barnes, and Dalvin Warmack. They also have a slew of wideouts they trust. It could very well be the best offense the Wildcats have had in several years.
They also have a defense with a knack for causing turnovers. They already have caused six this season after finishing at plus-13 in the turnover ratio last year, good enough for 4th in the country. Good thing for Vanderbilt, they’re not prone to giving the ball away, and haven’t done so yet this season.
What the Commodores do want to improve on is the play of their 1,000-yard back, Ralph Webb. He will perhaps be the biggest factor in the entire game. He’s started slow (2.8 yards-per-carry) this year, but had nearly 2,500 yards combined on the ground the last two years.
While Kansas State has proven to be stingy on the line, they’re about to see how tough life is without stud DE Jordan Willis, who’s now a member of the Cincinnati Bengals. Webb is probably the best back they’ve played since Texas’ D’Onta Foreman last October.
Throw in this back with a vastly improved Shurmur at QB, and the Commodores are slowly becoming an SEC East contender. They’ve responded well to ATS losses like the one they had last week, going on a 21-6 stretch in those games. They’re also on a 5-1 span ATS vs. teams with winning records. But they’ll be facing a K-State team that’s covered their last four games.
This is no kind of must-win for either team, but Vanderbilt would love a catapult into the Alabama game next week. It would rank as one of the biggest early-season statement wins in some time. As long as they can prevent an early hush of the crowd, they’re in business.
They’re a team capable of beating Kansas State at their own game, no matter how much it may bore people. Trusting that their defense is as legit as it’s seemed, and counting on the old Webb to show up, this game could easily tilt in Vandy’s favor. Either way, we’re looking at a field goal game, if not closer.