Game Day Preview: What you need to know about Texas A&M-Vanderbilt
Texas A&M and Vanderbilt are meeting for the first time in Nashville, Tenn., and the second time ever. The Aggies beat the Commodores 56-24 in their first matchup in 2013, but the two SEC teams look a lot different now.
This season, Texas A&M has lacked consistency at the quarterback position, while Vanderbilt’s defense continues to establish its relative dominance.
Here’s what else you need to know about the conference matchup:
Texas A&M Aggies (7-3, 3-3 SEC) at Vanderbilt Commodores (4-6, 2-4 SEC)
Kickoff: Sat., Nov. 21, 7:30 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Weather: 59 degrees, 60 percent chance of rain (Weather.com)
Line: Texas A&M -7
By the numbers
50 – The Texas A&M-Vanderbilt meeting will be game number 50 for the Aggies since they joined the SEC in 2012. Texas A&M has a 35-14 record since joining the SEC, which is a 71.4 winning percentage.
9 – Vanderbilt’s defense climbed to No. 9 in the nation and third in the SEC in forced three-and-out possessions. Opposing offenses average 5.1 three-and-out possessions against Vanderbilt’s D.
2 – If the Aggies beat the Commodores on Saturday, Kevin Sumlin will become the second coach in program history to start his Texas A&M coaching career with four 8-win seasons. He would also be tied for second-place with coaches Emory Bellard (1972-1978) and Homer Norton (1934-1947) for the most 8-win seasons in program history.
Storylines to watch
Will Vanderbilt be able to contain Christian Kirk?
Coach Derek Mason has been preparing both Vanderbilt’s defense and special teams for what it will see in Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk. Mason recruited Kirk as a high school athlete in Arizona, and is fully aware of Kirk’s abilities.
The freshman wide receiver only needs 130 more all-purpose yards to break Cyrus Gray’s freshman record of 1,592 yards from 2008. He’s also one of the SEC’s leaders with 14.8 yards per play. Kirk is easily one of the best freshman receivers in the SEC. His four 100-yard receiving games in 2015 are the most by any freshman in Texas A&M history.
Quarterback situation at Texas A&M
Much like Vanderbilt, Texas A&M has struggled to find consistency at quarterback, . The Aggies have bounced between true freshman Kyler Murray and sophomore Kyle Allen. Murray took over as the starter in Week 8 of this season and has started the past three games. He’s No. 1 on the depth chart against Vanderbilt.
The freshman may be young, but his father’s experience at quarterback for the Aggies definitely rubbed off on him. Nearly half of Murray’s rushing attempts have resulted in a first down or touchdown and that leads all SEC QBs, and he was the first Texas A&M freshman QB to rush for more than 100 yards in his first start with 156 yards on 20 carries.
Will Ralph Webb pull off three consecutive 100-yard games?
Vanderbilt running back Ralph Webb has been a huge help to Vanderbilt’s offense, which has struggled with its passing game all season. The Commodores offense is improving slowly with freshman Kyle Shurmur at quarterback, but Webb’s running game is something the Commodores offense has been able to rely on.
The sophomore has had back-to-back 100-yard performances against SEC opponents — the Florida Gators and the Kentucky Wildcats.
What is Texas A&M’s defense bringing to the table for Saturday’s game?
Sophomore free safety Armani Watts, sophomore defensive end Myles Garrett, and sophomore nickelback Donovan Wilson are players to watch out for on Saturday. Watts is on track for a 100-tackle season — he’s only four tackles away. The sophomore has recorded five-double digit tackle games.
Garrett is just as talented as one of the nation’s most dynamic pass rushers. The sophomore leads the SEC with 10.5 sacks, 17 tackles for losses, and five forced fumbles. Wilson is another SEC leader with five interceptions, which is the total number of interceptions Texas A&M had as a team last season. The Aggies’ defense is just as strong as the Commodores, so it’ll be interesting to see who does the better job of shutting down the offense.
Prediction: Texas A&M 24, Vanderbilt 17
Although Vanderbilt has collected two conference wins against Missouri and Kentucky this season and sustained a narrow loss to Florida, Texas A&M has a much more powerful offense, even with inconsistency at the quarterback position. Both teams will have young quarterbacks on Saturday, but Shurmur is a far less dynamic quarterback when compared to Murray.
The Commodores defense will be a deciding factor in the game, but at the end of the day, it’ll come down to the offense that can make the most of their red zone trips. Vanderbilt’s offense has improved over the course of the season, but with the way the Aggies have performed, they’ll be able to take home their first win in Nashville, Tenn.