Vanderbilt and Nevada — both coming off sizable Week 1 wins — will meet in Nashville for the inaugural matchup between the two teams. Both the Commodores and Wolf Pack are looking to keep momentum after consecutive losing seasons in 2015 and '16, with Nevada’s 3-9 record in '17 marking its lowest season win total since going 3-8 in 2001.
There is certainly room to improve for a Wolf Pack team that struggled through its first season without former head coach Brian Polian, who departed for Notre Dame. Against Power 5 competition, Nevada lost by 11 points at Northwestern to open the season and fell by 38 at Washington State. In advance of its first Power 5 opponent in 2018, Nevada got off to a roaring start with a 72-19 win over FCS member Portland State.
Vanderbilt opened with a statement win in its season opener on Saturday. Playing against their southern neighbors in Middle Tennessee, the Commodores' defense limited the potent Blue Raiders to just seven points in a resounding 35-7 win. Vanderbilt only has two road games in its first six weeks — at Notre Dame and Georgia — so any opportunity to take care of business at home is one that the Commodores will need to seize.
Nevada at Vanderbilt
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 8 at 12 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
Spread: Vanderbilt -9
Three Things to Watch
1. Wolf Pack's road woes
Much is often made of teams on and near the West Coast traveling across the country for road games. While typically the home team has an advantage in that scenario, home teams tend to have an even larger edge against Nevada. Away from home, the Wolf Pack have dropped six straight, 11 of their last 12, and 15 of their last 18.
2. Matchup of battle-tested quarterbacks
Senior signal-callers Ty Gangi and Kyle Shurmur both enter Saturday with a chance to give their respective teams some real momentum. For Gangi, who tore up Portland State last week, he now has an opportunity to test his mettle against an SEC defense in Vanderbilt. Shurmur, meanwhile, will look to prove that his effectiveness against Middle Tennessee was no fluke. Shurmur only accounted for 172 yards of offense on Saturday — less than half of Gangi’s 362 — but certainly managed the game effectively enough and led his Commodores to a season-christening win.
3. Vanderbilt's defensive pressure
The talent on Vanderbilt’s defense is certainly noticeable, but the level to which the unit performed on Saturday surely shocked many who don’t get to watch the team regularly. The Commodores tallied six sacks last week, with Arizona State’s nine the only better mark from Week 1. If Vanderbilt’s defensive front can repeat that kind of pressure against Nevada, Gangi will be hard-pressed to find the same success that he did against Portland State.
The Commodores’ handling of Middle Tennessee last week opened many eyes, including mine when I doubted Vanderbilt’s capability of bouncing back from the personnel turnover from a season ago. But I'm now a believer in Vanderbilt, who has shown it has the talent to go up against a real opponent in Middle Tennessee, and will have another proving ground at home before shipping up to South Bend.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 28, Nevada 17
— Written by Juan Jose Rodriguez, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and currently a senior at the University of Notre Dame. Rodriguez was an intern for Athlon during summer 2017 and works for a variety of media outlets on campus, including as the Editor-in-Chief of Scholastic Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @JuanJoseRG02.