Two of the SEC's most disappointed fan bases will likely gaze upon a defensive struggle when their teams collide Saturday. Really, the storyline in this one is bad offense. Missouri is averaging just 16.6 points per game, while Vanderbilt paces slightly ahead at 19.3.
Mizzou comes into the game with a decent record of 4-3 (1-3 SEC) but the Tigers are lacking any sort of momentum to carry them into the remainder of the season. That, of course, has not been the case over the last two years. The defense is playing well, but the Tigers can't seem to find the end zone.
On the other hand, Vanderbilt has done a fairly decent job of moving the football, but it also has done everything in its power to turn it over. The Commodores come into this one having relinquished the ball 16 times en route to a 2-4 record, still winless in the SEC.
Saturday will mark the eighth meeting all-time between Mizzou and Vandy on the gridiron. The Tigers hold a 4-2-1 edge in the series, having won the last two. The series would be tied if not for back-to-back Missouri victories in 1895 and '96. For what it's worth, Babe Ruth was born around this time and Henry Ford was getting ready to unveil his first automobile.
Missouri at Vanderbilt
Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: SEC Network
Spread: Missouri -2.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Will either team score a touchdown?
This is a basic starting question, but it's worth asking. Neither team has had any success finding pay dirt through the first half of the season. Mizzou has scored single digits in three of its last five games and has not scored a touchdown since the South Carolina game Oct. 3. Vandy is finding the end zone a bit more often, but usually no more than once or twice a game. The Tigers will possess one of the best defenses Vanderbilt has seen this season. On the flip side, Missouri could be in for a rough going against an improved Commodore front seven.
2. Is anyone taking the over in this game?
Continuing that rhetoric, the way the offenses match up with the defenses in this game could be truly remarkable. It would not be surprising to see this one head to overtime tied at zero. In fact, the offenses are struggling so mightily that when the opening over/under came out for this game, it nearly set a record. At 34, the opening over/under line for this game was the lowest set for a college football game since 2004. The line has since moved to 35, but it begs the question: Can anyone envision even a 17-17 game?
3. Can Vanderbilt finally get over the hump?
Despite the lack of touchdowns, Vanderbilt has looked much better this year moving the ball. The same really can't be said for Missouri. If the Commodores can somehow find the end zone, maybe even once, they have a real shot at winning this game. Also, they must limit turnovers. Vanderbilt benefits from playing this one at home and second-year head coach Derek Mason is in desperate need of a signature win. This game against the Tigers is a grand opportunity for Mason and his team.
It's going to be a struggle. I think we can all agree on that. The over/under is probably set so shockingly low for good reason. One more important aspect to note is that both teams are in the top four in the SEC in field goals made this season. There is a good chance the kickers will be called on in this one, so special teams could factor in heavily. Vanderbilt won't go down without a fight, but Mizzou is known for getting it done in sloppy fashion. Gary Pinkel's team will be far more prepared when the fourth quarter arrives and a stingy Tigers defense will be the difference in a close game.