Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee State are just 35 miles apart, but the two schools have not met since 2005, when the Blue Raiders triumphed, 17-15.
Here’s what you need to know before Saturday afternoon:
Vanderbilt Commodores (1-3) at Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (2-2)
Kickoff: Sat., Oct. 3, 7 pm ET (CBS College Sports)
Weather: 51 degrees, 60 percent chance of rain (Weather.com)
Line: Middle Tennessee State -1.5
By the numbers
3 – The number of games in a row MTSU has taken from Vanderbilt. The Commodores got off to a 12-0 start in the series, but have since lost contests in 2001, 2002 and 2005.
159 – The number of pass attempts Vandy quarterback Johnny McCrary has racked up through four games. That’s the highest total in the SEC, 17 ahead of Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott at No. 2.
2 – The number of times Middle Tennessee has scored at least 70 points this season. Vanderbilt faced a similarly potent offense against Ole Miss last week, but MTSU has struggled in two contests against power conference schools (17.5 points per game).
Storylines to watch
Mid-Tennessee pride is on the line… right?
On Tuesday, Vanderbilt tight end Steven Scheu said that Vanderbilt wants to own the state of Tennessee, but also admitted not knowing much about the Vandy-MTSU rivalry. Linebacker Darreon Herring added: “I wasn’t here for any of those games, so I’m not really sure what makes it a big game for them.”
Can Vanderbilt’s ‘D’ continue its dominance?
Despite its 1-3 record, Vanderbilt has one of the country’s best defenses. Last week, the ‘Dores gave offensive powerhouse Ole Miss a run for its money by containing a spread offense that had previously gashed Alabama for 43 points. Vanderbilt is allowing opponents to convert just 23.1 percent of third-down opportunities, good for ninth in the nation.
MTSU’s father-son combination
Rick Stockstill is in his 10th year as the Blue Raiders’ head coach, but this is his first year with Brent Stockstill — his son — starting at quarterback. The redshirt freshman has thrown for 1,221 yards, 12 touchdowns and two interceptions. Back in 2013, Brent committed to Cincinnati, but changed his mind and enrolled at MSTU instead. “All I ever wanted to do was play for you,” he told his dad (via Tennessean.com‘s David Ammenheuser).
Prediction: Vanderbilt 24, MTSU 17
The Commodores nearly turned a corner at Ole Miss last Saturday thanks to their swarming defense. MTSU’s offense has shown a propensity to put up big numbers (at least 70 points in two different games) but faltered when it mattered against Alabama and Illinois. The Commodores defense is pretty much on par — or better — than the Tide’s, and should be able to suffocate the Raiders spread attack.
Vanderbilt’s offense could not step up when it mattered most against Ole Miss. Things will be different in Murfreesboro, where the ‘Dores will be able to move the ball with more ease. Look for Vandy to jump out to an early lead and then hold on for a red-zone stop in the final seconds.